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Wednesday, May 30, 2012 3 comments

Writing Wibbles

For the last few weeks, I’ve been reading The Complete Works of H. P. Lovecraft (link goes to eBook download page). Yeah, that was a slog. I learned a couple things, though:

  • Writing styles have changed a lot in the last 70 years. Lovecraft wouldn’t get much love if he started writing that way today. If dialog was water, I would have died of thirst reading the Complete Works. Perhaps this book isn’t meant to be read cover to cover, so much as used as a reference. Because it’s an eBook, it’s easy to search.
  • Cthulhu was prominently featured only in the story that introduced it, The Call of Cthulhu. After that, it got a few mentions. Amazing, how much fan fiction and the like has been written about one character in one story.

But Cthulhu aside, Lovecraft is one of a few authors that I can think of, where commentary and fanfic have surpassed the size of the original work (shoot, even Stephen King ripped off some of his pantheon… read Crouch End sometime). Other authors in this rarefied club that I can think of might include: Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, (perhaps) Edgar Allen Poe, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, (probably) Shakespeare, and the Bible.

It’s interesting to note that four of the seven authors are known for writing horror. I wonder what that says about not only readers in general, but literature commentators.

As for my own projects, White Pickups is coming along. I’ve (once again) postponed the launch date, but it’s going to happen before too much longer. The good thing is, since an editor is looking it over, I now plan to launch the paperback (through CreateSpace) around the same time as the eBooks. Before, I planned to get the eBooks in circulation for a few months, then sponsor a typo hunt before updating them and releasing the paperback.

As for the sequel, Pickups and Pestilence, I finally realized what I was missing to wrap up the last part of the story. I’m hoping to get out of Termag and it’s fertile story-soil and finish that up. I don’t think it will take two years to get that one out the door now.

I never did get around to putting Xenocide in the Kindle Select program. I really ought to do that.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012 5 comments

#TuesdaySerial: On the Wide River #3 (Accidental Sorcerers Season 3)

A brief interlude…

Season 1 • Season 2
Season 3: Episode 1Episode 2



Accidental Sorcerers
Season 3, Episode 3
On the Wide River

A steady, drenching rain greeted the Wide Lady as she approached Mosvil. The polemen guided the barge to one of several floating docks, jutting into the river from a high bluff. Within minutes, porters began offloading bronze goods from Exidy, plowshares and the like, along with five would-be river pirates.

Mosvil itself perched atop the bluff on the west bank, overlooking the Wide River and the low marshy flats on the other side. What few buildings there were on the east bank stood on stilts; this was the Rice Basket of the region.

Standing under a tarp, erected to shelter the hold, Bailar frowned at the muddy path leading up the bank. The bound pirates were marched up that path, stumbling at times, amid passengers and laden pack mules. The sorcerer looked at his apprentices, Mik and Sura, standing close to each other. While they had discovered and helped to foil the pirates, he knew that life on a barge did not suit them.

“I’m sure the two of you would not object to having even muddy ground under your feet,” he said. “And we need some provisions, it so happens. Go to the tavern on the other side of town, just inside the gate by the Royal Highway—here’s a list of what we need. If old Enzid is still in charge, he’ll try to give you twice what we need for free.” Bailar counted silver coins into a pouch and gave it to Sura along with the list. “But like magic, accepting such gifts should be done only when necessary.”

The apprentices trudged up the muddy path, using their staffs to stay upright. Though they were eager to find shelter, they stopped to rest where they could stay out of the way. “Look at that!” Sura gasped during one of their rest breaks, pointing down. Close to the docks, they saw a net-like contraption rising up the side of the bluff, hauled up by unseen hands at the top. Several people clung to the sides, like spiders on a web, as it rose.

“I wonder how much it costs to take that way up,” said Mik. “We should see about it for the return trip.”

“But we need to get our provisions down,” said Sura. “You’re strong enough to carry them down yourself, right?” She gave him a playful nudge with her free hand.

“Ha! Maybe this Enzid can help us negotiate the porters’ fees. I suspect hiring a mule would be cheaper than that ride anyway—there are people all up and down this path, and there’s only one of those things.” Mik paused a moment. “Sura? Why did the mentor send us? Sure, it’s our duty, but if this Enzid is such a friend that he would give us everything, why wouldn’t Bailar come himself? He could ride that basket up and not worry about the mud.”

“Something about Mosvil, I think. I’ve been with him on these trips before, and we never set foot off the barge here before. He never told me why, though.” She brightened. “But at least we’ll have a little time together!”

Mik grinned. He had no objection to that.


The taverner was a soft but quick man, dressed in a stained shift with a simple belt. He reminded Mik of Toisto, an innkeeper back in Lacota. “Hang your cloaks, wipe your feet,” he said, bustling by. The entryway was lined with pegs on both sides, and they found two adjacent pegs. A strange kind of straw on the floor—probably rice stalks and the like—caught the drips and clung to the mud on their boots. It gave a strange but not unpleasant smell as they wiped and stamped their feet. The floor inside the tavern proper had the same treatment.

“Thank you, traveling apprentices,” said the taverner, coming around again. “Are you come by the river or the road?”

Mik and Sura looked at each other. “River,” said Mik. “How did you know?”

He smiled. “You are not of Mosvil, so you are travelers. Youths always travel in the company of parents or ‘prentice-masters. Since you are not with your parents, I can safely assume that your master has sent you for provisions. Am I correct?”

Sura returned the smile. “It is said, a wise merchant knows even his newest customers. Would you be Enzid?”

The taverner gave the briefest pause. “That I am,” he said. “I surmise that your master has thus had dealings with me before. May I ask whom you represent?”

“The Sorcerer of Exidy, Bailar the Blue.”

Enzid gasped. “Then you are my honored guests! Come, sit at my table!” He led them to a table near the fire and beckoned a serving-woman. “What provisions does your master require?”

Sura produced the list as the serving-woman joined them. “Mem,” said Enzid, “give these honored guests the best of whatever they request.”

Mik looked at Sura, then at the woman. “Bread, cheese, and tea?” Sura nodded; the woman returned the nod and departed. “Finally,” he sighed. “Do you know how often I’ve wished for just a moment alone with you?”

She took his hand and smiled. “Me too.”

continued…

Sunday, May 27, 2012 4 comments

Multitasking

Last week, I wanted to get some writing done, but the wife was glued to the TV and Mason wanted attention. We played in his room for a while, then the old evening refrain…

“Watch George.” (i.e. Curious George)

“Grandmom’s watching something,” I said. “You can watch George when her show’s done.”

“Watch George!”

I suddenly realized: there’s a way that all three of us could be happy. I plucked a Curious George DVD off the stack and put Mason on my lap in front of my MacBook. I plugged in the outboard monitor, moved Scrivener over to it, then put the DVD in.

Soon, Mason was watching George on the laptop screen, while I was typing away onto the other screen (and balancing a toddler on my leg). Both the computer and the granddad managed without anything falling over. All too soon, Mason decided to go back to playing.

I’ve been promising the MacBook a memory upgrade for some time. But a recent update got the computer into constant swap mode, warming things up and getting the fans going, so now it was past time. I went hunting on lowendmac.com for info, and found that my MacBook was manufactured between May and October 2007. So… if it hasn't happened already, its fifth birthday is imminent. The memory came in yesterday, and it took less than 10 minutes to install. Not only did it cure the fan-spinning problem, the whole computer feels a lot snappier. No bop-to-swap when changing apps!

The MacBook continues to be plenty fast for my needs, even at age 5. It will keep going until a major hardware failure or until too many apps require Cougar Mountain Lion to run (and in the latter case, I could just go with Linux and run Scrivener in emulation).

With tablets as capable as they are, I may make my next computer an iMac or Mac mini, with an iPad paired to a Bluetooth keyboard. (That is, if I can keep Mason from stealing the iPad… that’s a problem with the current one.)

Friday, May 25, 2012 13 comments

#FridayFlash: Blood and Fire

"Pardon me, Senator," said Damien Wilde, "someone is at my door." He punched the mute button before his client, the esteemed Senator from Bouncing Bedsprings, Mississippi, could object.

Wilde stormed across the sumptuous living room to his balcony. "And if you hewed to those moral values you so eloquently demand of others," he snarled, "you wouldn't be calling me!" He looked through the glass doors; there was some time before sunset.

"Useful idiots," he reminded himself. "You do the Master's work in the name of the Enemy." One breath, and he was calm enough to speak to his client again.

"Wilde! Wilde, answer me!" The Senator's drawl sounded panicky.

"I am here, Senator," he said. "A local client was at the door. I have sent him to the lobby until we can finish here." My supper is getting cold, he thought. May this be quick.

"He's going to the press tomorrow!" the Senator shouted. "This is an election year for me, and Beaufort—"

"I'm well aware of Beaufort," said Wilde. And if he pushes you aside, I will work for him. Or he for me, rather. "I can smooth things over. Your boy on the side will find it most advantageous to remain quiet." But the Senator's next election was likely to be his last. No matter: Beaufort or another would take his place. To Wilde, they were all interchangeable.

With the Senator placated, Wilde at last returned to his supper. An act of will, and it again warmed to the proper temperature. This situation seemed so familiar… oh yes. Centuries ago, a princeling had been caught out in a similar indiscretion. That was a simpler time, when you could solve most problems with blood and fire, but this day and age had its own conveniences.

With supper complete, Wilde poured himself a glass of wine and repaired to the balcony to watch Darkness fall over the land. This was a ritual he had failed to observe only a few times in millennia, and few places had ever afforded such a view as this penthouse tower in the heart of Chicago. As the last arc of sunlight slipped below the horizon, he raised his glass and spoke in a language long forgotten by humanity: The light is gone. Let Darkness cover the world. Our Master reigns. And he drank a toast to his Master.

With his evening worship ended, he began the ritual that would take him to the Senator's erstwhile boyfriend. A sufficient bribe should keep him in the shadows until he could do no more harm. And if not? There were still uses for blood and fire in these days.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012 3 comments

Writing Wibbles: Interview with INHALE Author Kendall Grey

I have a special treat today: instead of my yapping, you get to read someone else! I asked indie author and fellow Planet Georgia denizen Kendall Grey if she’d like to do a blog-erview, and she was happy to oblige. You can find more Kendall… well, just about anywhere:

Just Breathe Novels
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Sign up for my newsletter

INHALE is now available: KindleNook, and paperback

OK, on to the interview!



Tales from FAR Manor: Georgia native or transplant?

Kendall Grey: Transplant. I was born in Cleveland, Ohio and lived there until I was ten. I consider myself a fully integrated Georgia girl now, though I can still "talk Yankee" when the need arises. ;-)


TFM: What do you want people to know about your Just Breathe trilogy?

KG: If you prefer reading books with lots of "telling" that spoon-feed you a story with easily digestible, pre-chewed plot bits and minimal brain taxing, the JUST BREATHE trilogy is NOT for you. This trilogy contains intricate world-building, multiple sub-plots, detailed vocabulary, and a slow-simmering main plot that arcs over three books. You have to think in order to understand what's going on, but at the same time, it's probably best not to overanalyze. The books are character-driven and show how the hero and heroine grow over the course of three stories. The trilogy is NOT Young Adult. I'm not sure where readers are getting this notion because the blurbs clearly state that the books contain explicit content and are not suitable for readers under 18.


TFM: You have a couple young kids. What would you say if you caught one of them reading your book? Or some other author's erotic romance? ;-)

KG: "How was it?" Hahahaha!


TFM: Do you have connections (current or former) in cetacean research, or is your interest purely personal?

KG: Both. I know people who know people in cetacean research. I've contacted some researchers personally (I have no qualms about stalking anyone online), and they've been wonderful about answering questions for my books. But I also love whales enough that I feed the need for knowledge any time it arises. I watch documentaries, read whale-related books, and always pay close attention to the naturalists on whale watch boats -- I'm an all-around whale geek. ;-)


TFM: You're just a little outspoken in your hostility toward the traditional publishing regime. ;-) Can you share some of your reasons?

KG: Traditional publishing had a chance to jump on the e-book revolution bandwagon years ago, but they didn't. Now that e-books have exploded and people are making money like crazy, the trads are left scratching their butts, wondering what happened. If you can't evolve, you become extinct. It's a simple idea, but they're too stuck in the past (and on their dying business model) to roll with the times.

I don't like to be told I'm not good enough when I know my writing is better than what some traditionally published authors have put out. Yes, there's the matter of mass market appeal, and in that respect, NY is right. I don't have it. But once I find my target audience, I think the trilogy will fall into its niche and flourish.


TFM: Rum or tequila?

KG: Tequila all the way. When I drink tequila, I become invincible. Even more so than usual. ;-)


TFM: If you knew what you know now when you started writing, what would you do differently?

KG: I wouldn't allow myself to care nearly as much about what everyone else thinks. It's so true what they say about a$$holes and opinions. Everyone's got 'em. A lot of them stink. If I'd spent as much time writing, revising, and editing as I did on getting worked up over bad reviews, I'd probably have written six books by now.

No matter what, you can't please everyone. There will always be somebody who hates what you write and what you stand for. Sometimes it's jealousy. Sometimes it's pure ignorance. Sometimes the book just isn't their thing. The reason is irrelevant because nothing you say or do will change that person's opinion. So, forget it and move on. That reader isn't your target audience. Find someone who is.


TFM: What question did you want me to ask that I missed, and what's the answer?

KG: What would the title of your autobiography be? "Hoochie Mamas, Hot Fudge, and Hematite Womanc@cks: Life on the Autobahn of a Delusional Egomaniac's Imagination"



OK, that's our interview — thanks to Kendall for visiting the free-range insane asylum! If you want to know more, go back to the top and hit some links. And if you want to sit in the comfy chair and answer a mix of serious and silly questions, just let me know…

Monday, May 21, 2012 6 comments

#TuesdaySerial: Accidental Sorcerers Season 3 Ep. 2

As an aside, this is post #1400.

When we last left our young heroes, they were concerned about someone — or something — coming aboard in the night…

Season 1 • Season 2
Season 3: Episode 1



Accidental Sorcerers
Season 3, Episode 2
On the Wide River

Bailar stumbled in from the next room. “What? Boarders?”

“Nar!” the captain grimaced. “The crew woulda give the alarm by now!”

“We felt spells being cast, sir,” said Mik. “Your crew is likely asleep. We need to do something!”

The captain glared at Bailar. “If they felt magic,” said the sorcerer, “it was not my doing. Something’s afoot.”

“Fine, then. But if you two are prankin’, it will go badly for you both!”

“If we are,” said Mik, stepping forward, “I’ll take my punishment and Sura’s as well.”

Sura pulled him back. “You will not!”

Bailar smirked. The captain glared, then softened just a little and nodded. “Yar. Let it be as you say.” He slipped out, Bailar and the apprentices following.

They reached the first slumbering crewman. The captain hissed and cursed under his breath, trying to shake the man awake. Mik looked at Bailar, who nodded; Mik crouched on the other side. He touched the sleeping man, then looked at the captain. “This is a magical sleep,” he whispered. “I can feel it. Shaking him won’t help.”

“Well, can ya wake him?”

Mik nodded and, as he’d been taught, made unnecessary gestures and whispered a nonsense rhyme: “The sun is up, the cock is crowing! Time to wake and be a-going!” At once, the crewman’s eyes popped open. Seeing the captain, he gasped.

“Nar, it ain’t yer lazy bones this time,” the captain growled. “There’s devilment afoot. Let’s take this here sprout of a sorcerer and get yer pals a-movin’!”

“Sura and I will take the other side,” said Bailar. “Quietly now.”

One by one, they brought each crewman awake. They roused almost half the crew before the boarders became aware. At the first shout, Bailar brought the False Dawn and twelve angry crewmen set on four boarders. It was over in seconds, the boarders battered and cringing in the open hold.

A splash, and the captain turned. “More! Gettin’ away, they are!”

“Stay back!” Bailar shouted, stumbling to the bow and catching himself on the rail. In the light of his False Dawn, he saw a small boat and two shadowy men rowing for their lives. He clapped his hands and threw them over his head; a waterspout formed under the boat, lifting it and its terrified occupants onto the barge. Several of the crewmen subdued them.

Bailar touched each of them in turn. “How will you deal with these?” he asked the captain.

The captain looked at the boatload of near-stolen cargo and motioned to the crew to stow it away. “Next town with authority is Mosvil,” he said. “Turn ‘em over there, we will. Let the magistrate deal with them.”

“Very well,” said Bailar, “but this one —” he pointed to one of the two from the boat — “comes to Queensport with us. A rogue mage must face the Conclave.” Even in the dim light, Mik saw the young man — almost still a boy — turn pale.

“Well, then,” said the captain, “if ye’ll be responsible for him until we get there, I see no reason to say you nay. Eat our food, he will, but knowin’ he’ll get turned into a toad is payment enough!” He barked a laugh and turned away.

Bailar turned to Mik and Sura. “Fetch me a rope,” he said, “about —”

A tingle of magic cut his words short. They turned as the rogue mage twisted free of the crewmen and leaped over the side. Bailar and his apprentices ran to the railing, but saw only ripples. They watched for a long while, but he never surfaced in range of the light.

“Cursed us, he did!” one of the crewmen moaned, shaking his wrists. “Our hands won’t hold nothin’ no more!”

Bailar examined them. “Only for a few minutes,” he reassured them. “He benumbed you so he could get free. He’s not likely to be back, but all the same, we’ll join you on watch.”

A huge hand clapped Mik’s shoulder, nearly collapsing him. “Sprouts ya may be,” the captain grinned at the apprentices, “but proved your mettle this night, ya did. Without you and yer master, they might’ve left me with an empty barge! What would be a fair reward, think ya?”

“Thank you, sir,” said Sura, “but our mentor would not let us take a reward. But you can discuss it with him.”

Mik nodded. He was too embarrassed to ask for the only thing he really wanted: a few minutes alone with Sura.

continued…

The Funeral

How I'll remember her…
My mother in law had severe asthma ever since I’ve been around. She was never one to let it slow her down much though, and it finally caught up to her last week.

She’s had a couple of near-miss attacks before, and after the last one the doc told her she probably wouldn’t survive the next. So she was at the #4 chicken house on Wednesday, where they keep one of the tractors. Even with them shut down since November, they’re still dusty and a little smelly. So combine that with the exertion of climbing a tractor, and it brought on The Big One.

The guy who’s been helping was nearby, but discovered her still wheezing and slumped over… but then she stopped breathing altogether. He did CPR and called 911, which was another black comedy of errors. For one thing, the tin roof blocks what meager cellphone signal we get there. For another, he forgot the street address (easy to do, I can’t ever remember it) and the dispatcher insisted on having one. Finally, they took directions… then the ambulance turned into the pasture and got stuck. So by the time they got her stabilized and at the hospital, it was far too late. Thus begun the tradition of calling the family together and having them on hand before disconnecting life support Thursday evening.

The wife has pretty much anchored everything and everyone the last few days, which means she hasn’t had time to really deal herself. The Boy and Snippet came down from Wisconsin, and Mr. Sunshine got off the road, and Big V is nearby anyway — so there was plenty of sturm und drang to go along with everything else. But in the end, it seems to have worked out. Snippet and the wife have reconciled, so maybe things will be a little more peaceful later on.

Anyway, I’m going to miss her. She was a good cook (especially for small army-quantities) and a great gardener. And how many people had a mother in law who’s maiden name was Alice Cooper?

Friday, May 18, 2012 28 comments

#FridayFlash: Roadkill

No, Mason didn’t do this. Mom says I did it when I was a toddler, and tied up traffic on a busy highway. A heap of something white in the road this afternoon gave me the idea for this.



Roadkill

Matt stumped up the road. One hand clutched the blanket over his shoulder, the other he had in his mouth. Behind him, Mommy napped in front of the TV and its endless reruns of PBS Kids, exhausted by one too many 3 a.m. diaper and sippy cup calls. Before him? His toddler mind could not grasp the word adventure, but understood the concept.

“Go home, Matt,” said his angel, swooping in front of him. “Lay down next to Mommy and take a nice nap.”

He grunted a negation, not wanting to move his slobbery fist, and kept walking. A whispering, rushing, humming sound slithered up the hill behind him.

“Matt! Over here!” The angel flew off to the side of the road, hovering over the ditch. He’d take a tumble, but the ground was soft and it was safer than what was coming. Matt shook his head and veered away, farther into the road. The noise grew louder.

A rustle of leaves. Beyond the ditch, a squirrel stood, acorn in its paws. “Matt! Look, Matt! Kitty!” Angels are not allowed to lie — but to Matt, all little animals were kitty. Speaking Toddler is allowed.

“Kitty!” Matt grinned and turned off the road, falling into the ditch as the angel backed up to observe and the speeding car topped the hill—

Matt’s wail snapped Mommy awake in an instant. In a panic, she slammed the screen door open and pelted up the road, finding Matt trying to climb out of the muddy ditch. “Matt!” she snatched him up. “What are you doing out here? Look at you—you’re all muddy! You’re getting a bath, then you’re going into your crib until you have a nap, and I don’t care how much you cry about it—”

Something in the road caught Mommy’s eye: a small crumpled white thing. A wing poked up from the heap. “You’d think the chicken trucks would do a better job keeping them in the cages,” she muttered. She turned and took her son home.

Monday, May 14, 2012 8 comments

#TuesdaySerial: On the Wide River (Accidental Sorcerers Season 3)

Mik and Sura begin their next adventure…

Season 1Season 2



Accidental Sorcerers
Season 3 Episode 1
On the Wide River

The life of an apprentice sorcerer could be frustrating. Not the learning—according to Bailar, Mik was born to it, and that was coming along well. Not the chores—he’d had those to do at home, and alongside Sura the work seemed light.

It was Sura herself who brought the frustration alongside the joy. Last winter, he had started to see Robi as more than the friend he’d known all his life, the one who shared his games and jokes—and then she chose Piet before he could bring himself to say anything. Then came the invaders from Westmarch, and his foolish and successful attempt to awaken an ice dragon. And like cattle, one following another, it all led to his apprenticeship in faraway Exidy. There he met Sura, the first girl who saw him as more than just a friend. But as a fellow apprentice, one who was like the mentor’s own daughter, they had few opportunities to be just Mik and Sura.

Image source: http://openclipart.org/
As spring drew to a close, folk began preparations for the High Summer festival, and sorcerers prepared for the Conclave. Bailar the Blue and his apprentices boarded the Wide Lady. It was a long barge, the largest craft Mik had ever seen, coming to a point on both ends like a canoe. With a crew of thirty polemen, it carried freight and passengers down the Wide River to Queensport. Mik smirked when he thought of the barge’s name; it reminded him of his aunt. Like his aunt on her ranch, the polemen shouted their Low Speech argot across the barge all day long, cursing over the heads of anyone nearby.

Freed from their daily chores, Mik and Sura thought they would have time on the barge, and in that regard this trip was more frustration. As big as the Lady was, there was no place aboard where they were not under the eyes of passengers and crew alike. At night, the few women and girls on board were sheltered away in one of the two cabins on the stern, while Mik slept with the men under a tarp fore of the cabins. (Bailar, as a sorcerer, was given the guest berth in the captain’s cabin.) At home, there was at least an opportunity for a brief embrace and a kiss between chores or after learning times.

Worse, while Mik did his best to treat Sura as honorably as he knew how, Dreaming Mik had no honor at all. But his Dreaming Sura was often just as wanton. What happened in his dreams often left Mik ashamed and excited in equal measure, and on this night, it would be the same. The barge was anchored on a stretch of the Wide where no town graced its banks, not even a fishing village. Mik twisted and moaned in his sleep; in his dream, he and Sura lay in the garden, a tingling wave rushing over him as Sura whispered his name.

“Mik… Mik!”

Mik opened his eyes. He saw Sura (fully clothed) kneeling over him, one hand on his shoulder, the other holding a lantern turned low. He grinned and reached up, still partly the Dreaming Mik, and tried to pull her to him.

“Wait— no!” she rasped, keeping her arm stiff. “Didn’t you feel it?”

He was feeling something, or almost, but Dreaming Mik faded. The wave ebbed, and Mik was grateful she didn’t ask him about his dreams. “Feel what?” he whispered, getting to his feet.

“Magic. Someone cast a spell… something familiar. Concealment, maybe. I couldn’t sleep for… Anyway, I felt the power. Close by.”

“Not the mentor?”

“No. It didn’t feel like—”

“Oh!” Mik felt it this time, like a spider racing up his spine. “That? It felt like a sleeping spell.”

“Are you sure?”

Mik nodded. As Sura’s budding talents were sharp with spells of concealment and finding, his bent toward sleeping and waking. On the far end of the barge, they heard a thump and scuffing noises. “This isn’t good!” He squinted into the dark. “We need to tell the mentor. And the captain. Maybe you should conceal us.”

Sura shook her head. “Our cloaks are dark. Besides, they’re already aboard. If we felt their magic, they’ll feel ours.”

Mik nodded and they got moving, hand in hand, nervous but enjoying that much contact.

The cabin door was locked, and Sura decided haste was now more important than stealth. She laid her hand over the latch, and it popped open. As they slipped inside, the barge captain stood, a frightening bare-chested figure in the dim lantern light, a scowl on his face and a club in his hand. “’Ere, what’s this breakin’ in—”

“Sir!” Mik interrupted. “Boarders!”

Sunday, May 13, 2012 4 comments

They’re Bawwwwck…

See how they're in the farthest corner
away from the crucifix?
Fortunately, not in the numbers they once were though.

My mother in law was either overcome by nostalgia for the “old days,” when getting eggs involved walking across the yard, or just got bored at how much less evil things have become since November. However it was, she got herself a dozen laying hens and a couple roosters last month.

Of course, they need a little fresh air and the like, so she converted an old shed last used to raise orphaned or abandoned calves. This shed has a generous half-acre of fenced in pasture, and “all we had to do” was hang some chicken wire on it to help keep them in.

Do hippie chickens
lay psychedelic eggs?
With the place prepared, the new avatars of evil were brought in and shown their new home. Being of non-industrial breed, they’re a lot more colorful than the plain white chicken house chickens. Mason enjoys watching them walk around outside, and we all enjoy the eggs.

But I have to wonder: do hippie chickens lay psychedelic eggs?

Friday, May 11, 2012 18 comments

#FridayFlash: Captain Heroic's Last Hurrah

Now that I’m back from vacation, maybe I can get a regular blogging schedule going.

I’m going to start serializing “Season” (Chapter) 3 of Accidental Sorcerers on Tuesdays. This one will last six episodes. If you need to catch up first, check out Season 1 and Season 2.

On to this week’s story:



Captain Heroic's Last Hurrah

“Breaking news from City Hall. Channel 14’s Montana Rack is on the scene.”

“Thanks, Rudy. I’m here with a man whose name is synonymous with Skyscraper City — Captain Heroic. Captain, can you tell our viewers what you just told me?”

“This wasn’t an easy decision, Montana. I just wanted to put that out there first. In brief, I just left City Hall, where I gave Mayor Barkley and Police Chief Holling my formal announcement to retire as a superhero.”

“Stunning news, Captain. Can you share what led to this decision with our viewers?”

“I’ve been fighting crime for twenty-five years now, Montana. Sure, there’s been some downtime in there, but I’ve always answered The Signal when it came. I’m in good health yet, but it has been getting a little harder this last year or two. My reaction times are off noticeably from just last year. It’s not severe yet, and it hasn’t impeded my powers, but it’s just a matter of time. I think it’s better to retire at the top of my game rather than to keep pushing my luck. It wouldn’t be good for anyone’s morale, on our side at least, if one of the villains at large could brag about taking down Captain Heroic.”

“There have been rumors concerning the flood of competition in the last few years. Could you address that?”

“I’ll be honest, Montana: that was a contributing factor. As you know, very few superheroes are self-funded. The rest of us depend on bounties to fund our ongoing arms race with the other side. When I began, the Heromobile and a handful of gadgets was all I needed. But now there’s jumpjets, submarines, computer power, and a lab where I can put all of it together. Meanwhile, bounties have stagnated since the turn of the century. The economy has squeezed Skyscraper City’s budget, and they had to cut superhero stipends. On the other hand, you have new faces on the scene — the League of Devis moved in from Kalikut, and Count Boris from Romania, not to mention the Masked Warriors from China. We work together when necessary, especially Boris and I, but everyone who works together splits the bounties. The new guys are younger and rely more on sheer numbers than technology. Since supervillain tactics have evolved to fight a lone superhero with gadgets, the ‘human wave’ guys have another advantage.”

“I’m sure I speak for most citizens when I say I’m really sorry to hear that, Captain. If you’ve just tuned in, this is Montana Rack. I’m with Captain Heroic in front of City Hall, a place where we’ve met so many times before. The Captain has just announced his retirement, citing age and financial issues. So, Captain, if you are retiring… is there any reason to not reveal your secret identity?”

“Many reasons, Montana. I’ve lost count of the number of evildoers I’ve put behind bars. There’s at least fifteen supervillains and several dozen major mobsters in prison right now, who might have enough influence to exact revenge.”

“Disappointing, but understandable. Any regrets or unfinished business?”

“One. I never could catch up with Icy von Doom. There’s a supervillain who deserves some respect: it’s hard to collect evidence from a smoking crater. I know the young turks are gunning for her, but she hasn’t made a misstep yet. We’ve been able to thwart her attempts at world domination, but that’s about it.”

“What if The Signal is lit?”

“There’s a work crew taking The Signal down off the roof as we speak. Mayor Barkley requested that it go to the Skyscraper City Museum, and that’s a fitting place for it. But I’ll be watching, and if the young turks are having trouble, Captain Heroic will be there to save the day!”

“Thank you, Captain Heroic. This has been Montana Rack, Channel 14, speaking with Skyscraper City’s most famous superhero about his announcement to retire. Back to you, Rudy. … That’s a wrap, Kyle. I’ll meet you at the truck in a minute, okay? I need to collect my thoughts. Thanks. … Off the record, Captain. What’s next?”

“Off the record? Oh, I don’t know. How about dinner?”

“Dinner? We’ve known each other for over twenty years and you’re just now getting around to asking me out?”

“Sorry. It was for your own safety. If we were dating before, you’d have been a target. And a highly visible one at that. But now?”

“I’m not getting any younger either. Why not?”

Friday, May 04, 2012 20 comments

#FridayFlash: The Three Builders

You’ll recognize these characters from Accidental Sorcerers — this takes place about eight or nine years prior.



The Three Builders
(a fable of Termag)

The nurse stood as Bailar entered Sura’s bedroom, stumbling a little. “All is well?” he asked.

“All is well, and gods willing, all shall be well.” The nurse often wondered how such a clumsy oaf could yet be a sorcerer, but there he stood. But a kindly man he is, and a good ‘un to give a home to a girl left at his door. She smiled and departed.

“I helped in the kitchen today, Father!” said Sura, sitting on her bed. Her round eyes gleamed in the candlelight. Rain drummed on the house, a comfortable sleepy sound.

“Nurse told me. She said you did well.”

She grinned. “I did! She said I would get cut or burned, but I was very careful. I’m almost five, I’m a big girl! I can help.”

“Indeed you can.”

“Yes. And then I’ll grow up to be a great sorcerer like you.”

“I’m sure you’ll be an even better one.” Bailar smiled to himself. He was no great sorcerer, but for a river town like Exidy he was adequate.

“A story, Father?” Sura bounced a little. “I’m not too big for a story.”

“Of course.” He sat on the bed and began:

Once, in the time of Camac That Was, in the Faraway West, was a fishing village. The village was remote, and they had to mostly provide for themselves. Most families had a fishing boat, and a garden, and could see the sun set over the ocean. Theirs was not an easy life, but it was the only life they knew and they were content with it.

Source: openclipart.org
One day, a raider, a big and strong man from the North, sailed by in his boat. He saw the little village, and saw how long it would take for the Queen’s navy to come to its aid. He found a place to hide his boat nearby and began to plunder the houses of the village by dark of night. What he could not carry away, he destroyed. The chief offered a great reward to anyone who could kill the raider, but none succeeded and many who tried did not live to try again.

Into this turmoil came three young men from other places, sent out from their families to make their homes. The first man said, “I shall build my house of rocks, with narrow windows and a sturdy brass door. This raider shall not break in.” When the raider came, he pounded at the brass door but could not batter it down. Then he took his great hammer, and smashed through the wall. He carried away the young man’s possessions, leaving behind a rubble.

The second man said, “I shall build my house of sturdy logs, with a great wooden door. This raider shall not break in.” When the raider came, he pounded at the great wooden door but could not batter it down. He took his great hammer and beat at the log walls, but made only some splinters. Then he took oil, poured it on the side of the house, and set it on fire. When the young man ran from his burning house, carrying what he prized most, the raider took it and more besides, leaving behind a smoking char.

The third man said, “I shall build my house from straw mats. I am a poor man, and what little I have the raider may not want.” When the raider came, he looked upon the flimsy house and laughed. “I shall simply walk through the wall and take what I will,” said he. But when he pushed the wall down, the entire house fell onto the raider, trapping him in the tough mats. As the raider struggled to escape, the young man took his hunting-spear and spitted the raider upon it. He dragged the raider’s body to the chief, who rejoiced with all the village and gave him the promised reward. The chief made him an advisor, and the village prospered.

“For it is not what you are given in this world that matters, but how you use it. The end.” Bailar smiled and stroked his foster daughter’s hair.

“That was good,” said Sura. “So you don’t have to be big and strong to win the battle?”

“Not if you are clever and use the talents you were created with,” said Bailar. “Now it’s time for the sorcerer’s daughter to go to sleep. We go to market tomorrow.”

Tuesday, May 01, 2012 1 comment

INHALE Book Launch

Today, I turn the blog over to my Twitter buddy and fellow Planet Georgia denizen, Kendall Grey! I’m helping her launch her erotic urban fantasy, INHALE — here’s what she wants you to know about it…

INHALE, an urban fantasy romance by Kendall Grey, is now available in paperback and e-book for Kindle (MOBI) and Nook (EPUB). INHALE is the first book in the JUST BREATHE trilogy. Kendall is donating all profits from the sale of the trilogy to programs that educate people about whales and the challenges they face. Watch the video to find out why.

Kendall encourages interested readers to consider purchasing an e-book instead of a paperback. E-books save trees, cost considerably less, and bring in much more money for the whales.

Thank you for supporting INHALE, and most importantly, the whales that need our help.

INHALE blurb:

Strangers in reality, inseparable in dreams…

After years of suffocating under her boss’s scrutiny, whale biologist Zoe Morgan finally lands a job as director of a tagging project in Hervey Bay, Australia. Success Down Under all but guarantees her the promotion of a lifetime, and Zoe won’t let anything—or anyone—stand in her way. Not the whale voices she suddenly hears in her head, not the ex who won’t take no for an answer, and especially not the gorgeous figment of her imagination who keeps saving her from the fiery hell of her dreams.

Gavin Cassidy hasn’t been called to help a human Wyldling in over a year, which is fine by him. Still blaming himself for the death of his partner, he keeps the guilt at bay by indulging in every excess his rock star persona affords. That is, until he’s summoned to protect Zoe from hungry Fyre Elementals and learns his new charge is the key to restoring order in the dying Dreaming. He never expects to fall for the feisty Dr. Morgan…nor does he realize he may have to sacrifice the woman he loves to save an entire country.


*This book contains graphic language, sex, and some violence. Not suitable for readers under the age of 18.

**The author will donate all profits from the sale of the JUST BREATHE trilogy to programs that educate people about whales and the challenges they face.

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