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Monday, March 31, 2014 2 comments

The Termag #AtoZchallenge Index Page

When John Wiswell did this with his own world last year, I realized I actually had a theme that could generate 26 posts! This is going to be the most post-populated month in the long history of TFM,  since December 2005 (I was doing multiple posts per day way back when, back before Twitter).

If you’ve wanted more on Termag’s backstory, you’re going to get it. A guilt-free infodump!

You can read the entries linearly, i.e. one after the other, by clicking the “Next:” link at the end of each post. Or, you can follow cross-links inside the posts. Cross-links open a new window or tab; “Next” links use the existing one. A few of the posts link to other stories on this blog, but none of them link to the books (there are links in the sidebar for that). The index below opens a new window/tab.

A is for: Age of Heroes
B is for: Bailar the Blue
C is for: Camac That Was
D is for: Dragonlore
E is for: Elements
F is for: Fables
G is for: Gods
H is for: History
I is for: Isenbund
J is for: Jira the White
K is for: Koyr (and Ak’koyr)
L is for: Lesser Moon (and Greater Moon)
M is for: (The) Madness
N is for: (The) Northern Reach
O is for: Oakendrake
P is for: Protectors (and Captains)
Q is for: Queensport
R is for: (Captain) Rietha
S is for: Sorcery
T is for: (The) Treaty
U is for: (The) Unfallen
V is for: Vlis
W is for: Woldland
X is for: Xorsecc
Y is for: Yes (ways to say it)
Z is for: Zharcon the White

Begin: A is for: Age of Heroes

Friday, March 28, 2014 12 comments

Sleeping Butay (1 of 2) (#FridayFlash)

After reading some interesting posts about, shall we say, certain events that took place in original fairy tales, I had to write this one. Two of the characters (and I do mean characters) appeared in a previous tale, Stonebelly the Dragon.

Image source: openclipart.org
Once upon a time, in the Strange Lands north of Aht-Lann-Tah, lived Lee the boatbuilder. His wife Ki gave birth to a daughter, whom they named Butay. She grew into a beautiful young girl, and Lee often boasted that she had the finest stern in the Dominion.

In Butay’s twentieth year, a shadow fell across the Dominion, and Prince Chowming called his advisers together. “There is a shadow across the Dominion,” he said, repeating the narration. “What can we do about it?”

“It is merely a recession,” said Lord Miserly. “It affects only the peasants. Things will improve if left to themselves.”

“Or,” suggested Lord Fairplay, “we could stimulate the economy. It is long past time for you to find a wife, and a royal wedding would solve both problems.”

Prince Chowming’s resigned sigh was drowned out by the shouts of “Hear, hear!” from the other advisors, and the word was spread.

In the Rival Kingdom, word reached the ears of Princess Hatchet. She had once kidnapped Prince Chowming to marry him by force, until that dragon intervened, and saw a second chance to get him in her clutches—I mean, unite the two kingdoms. She summoned her royal consort, Hapless the (former) merchant. “I know you need to settle some accounts with your associates in Aht-Lann-Tah,” she told him. “Go ahead and take care of business. I’ll see you in a month or so, yes?”

Hapless was suspicious, as Hatchet had not let him out of the castle since the wedding, but he did indeed wish to settle his accounts. And if Hatchet thought he’d return without being dragged back by force, so much the better. He wasted little time in departing.

As soon as he was out of sight, Hatchet hurried to her cellar and uncovered her magic mirror. “Mirror, mirror,” she said, “Have I a rival to the hand of Prince Chowming?”

“But one,” the mirror replied. “Among the boatbuilders dwells the maiden Butay. Only she stands in your way.”

“Your rhyming lacks meter,” said Hatchet, “but no matter. By the power of Google, I command thee: find me a spell that will put an end to my rival!”

“Killing an innocent is bad juju,” the mirror warned. “But I have found you a spell that will be just as effective for what you need.”

“Can it be broken?”

“All spells of course can break, but how much effort does it take?” The mirror told her how. “And it wears off after a month.”

“No problem. She can sleep for a month. By then, I’ll have Prince Chowming.”

Butay was storming her way home, and everyone gave her wide hips a wider berth. She had caught her fiancé giving the butcher’s daughter his own salami, and she made sure that the end of their engagement was loud and public. In her rage, she nearly ran down an old woman in her path.

“Greetings, young lady,” said the woman. “Would you like to try my wines? I have only the finest.”

A bit of an ugg, Butay thought, but… “You know, I could use a good drink right now.”

“Then by all means, try some.” The old woman gave her a bottle. “My gift. If you enjoy it, seek me out. I will be glad to sell you some more.”

Butay wondered what the catch was, but didn’t care all that much. She uncorked the bottle and took a deep swig. “Good stuff,” she said. “I’ll be back.”

“Enjoy!” The old woman, who was actually Hatchet in disguise, waved and walked away. Butay took another long drink, then yawned. “Wow,” she said. “I need a nap.” She went home and laid down.

And there she stayed.


Sunday, March 23, 2014 7 comments

Resurrection #2

The Boy finally got his car working. It wasn’t long before he “found” a job and a place to live near his girlfriend’s place in Newnan. But the fun part was all the stuff that happened along the way.

I believe I mentioned, shortly after he left Wisconsin and was re-admitted to the free-range insane asylum, that his car croaked. Compression was gone, and he immediately decided he needed a new engine. I suggested he do a compression test, because he might only need a top-end rebuild (and like his in-laws, he ignores any data that doesn’t support his snap decision.) Then he decided he wanted a JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) engine, because they supposedly make more horsepower than the US version.

The Boy didn't see this. ;-)
I was skeptical, and so was his friend (the one who bought our green Civic and got it going). But, as I said above, facts don't stand a chance against the snap decision. They hauled the Acura into the #4 chicken house, and The Boy got a Haynes manual—which was horrible for this situation; the manual kept jumping around and skipping steps. But eventually, they got to where they were able to get the tractor bucket chained to the motor and pulled it out.

So, the new one came in. The usual hilarity ensued with getting everything to line up, moving this and that around, and hooking all the wires back up. So he had me down there one chilly Saturday morning. “How do you check the spark?”

I was rather shocked, that someone who thought he could replace an entire engine wouldn’t know how to hold a spark plug against the engine block, but I explained it. He had me crank the engine while he held the plug. No spark. “OK,” I said, “check your distributor, plug wires, and ignition coil.” I checked the fuse block. Easy stuff first, that’s the first rule of troubleshooting and a rule that doesn’t seem to stick with a certain person who prides herself on common sense… but I digress. Anyway, The Boy did some Googling and found that a JDM engine requires a matching ECU (the domestic one doesn’t work for whatever reason). So off to eBay once again, ECU arrives, he installs it, still no spark.

So the friend finally gets back over there, and he begins the methodical kind of approach I can relate to. He swapped in the ignition coil from his Civic, and hey presto, spark! Yes, I razzed The Boy about that on several occasions. Spark, but no vroom. There should have been an earth-shattering vroom. I thought the engine was making that whine that suggests it jumped time, and he decided (as I’d advised him far earlier) to check the timing belt. Turned out it had more teeth missing than a hockey player. With a new timing belt, it finally ran! So they got the car put back together and The Boy got it insured and plated.

Then the fun began. Why he didn’t think about doing this stuff while the new engine was sitting outside the car, I’ll never know. But he figured the first thing to do was change the oil. That’s when he found that a sumo wrestler must have put that oil filter on. It took several days of various things to finally get that sucker loose—he rammed a screwdriver through the filter to get leverage, the old-skool way of removing an oil filter, to no avail. He finally smooshed the end down enough to get a pair of big channel-lock pliers on it, and that did the trick.

Then as he put the oil in, he found that there was a hole in the oil pan. That was a fairly easy fix, as he had the oil pan from his old engine handy. But it was still pretty hilarious, even if by this time he’d taken my garage space and had my Miata out in the rain. I suspect that his shiny new motor was pulled from a wreck. Fun times.

Finally, he found that he’d bodged an axle seal, so his manual transmission fluid was leaking. But that was also a relatively easy fix. Once he was able to get the car back up on jackstands.

Onward and upward… until the next thing happens. I think The Boy’s friend is going to locate us a replacement engine for my old Civic. That should be less of a hassle than the Acura, since we’re not doing the JDM thing. But the Miata has working air conditioning, so I'd probably just sell the Civic once we got it running again.

Friday, March 21, 2014 10 comments

A to Z challenge: Theme Reveal

Welcome to my world. If it feels lived in, comfortable, it may be because I’ve developed it on and off since 1980 or so.

This is Termag. A world of magic, of world-spanning empires, of a pandemic that destroyed nearly everything. A world of different cultures, matriarchies, rebellions, and wars. And above all, a world full of stories. And my theme for the A to Z Challenge.

For the month of April, I hope you’ll continue to stop by and see what Termag is all about. You’ll get a lot of backstory about this world that hasn’t appeared in the Accidental Sorcerers series, or any other book I’ve written to date. But I won’t be promoting my books (all that’s in the sidebar anyway).

I’ll try to keep them reasonably short. That’s not easy for me.

Now it’s your turn Sign in and find some other themes to check out…

Sunday, March 16, 2014 2 comments

Skylar Takes a Powder

Thursday morning dawned bright and interesting. The Boy took Mason down to Newnan, for an overnight with his fiancé's family. She (haven’t come up with a suitable blog-name for her yet) is a decent sort, and Mason adores her.

About twenty minutes after they left, I was checking a few things online, and saw a cop car drive by my window… which meant he was in the driveway. I was afraid that The Boy might have gotten up to something, although I had no idea what, and I didn’t have any better theories.

With the coffee still working on kicking in, I gave the cop one of my more intelligent greetings: “What’s going on?”

“Uh, do you have a little boy that lives here?”

“Yeah.” Now I wondered who had called DFACS on us. M.A.E’s mom used to make a habit of doing that, using them as a harassment tool, until they put her on a “permanent ignore” list.

“Did he miss the bus this morning?”

“He doesn’t ride a bus,” I said, more confused than usual for a morning (which takes some doing). “He’s four, goes to pre-K, but Monday through Wednesday.”

“Is he here?”

“He just left with his dad.”

“So he’s your…” By this time, the cop had a smartphone in hand and was poking at it.


“What’s his name?”


“Is this him?” He held up the phone, with a picture of Skylar.

I managed to suppress the urge to say “You have wrong house,” in my worst Russian accent. Having the wife come up behind me may have helped with that. Instead, I said, “That’s Skylar. Mason’s second cousin.”

“Ah. He missed the bus this morning, and just started wandering around. One of the neighbors found him and called us.”

Wife gave him directions to Big V’s place, and he went on his merry way.

Now Skylar has been living with Big V for a while. She’s half blind, has one leg… and so, she often doesn’t see him doing things he shouldn’t and can’t catch him when she does see him. I’m guessing she zorched out and he took advantage of the situation to play outside. Wife opined that Skylar would shortly end up in a foster home… while I took a hike up a busy highway as a toddler around 1961, authorities don’t have much of a sense of humor about such things today. In the end, Skylar’s parents, Cousin Splat and Badger Boobs (long story), got him. I hope they can keep it all together, for his sake.

If not… I rather expect he’ll end up as a long-term inmate at FAR Manor.

Friday, March 14, 2014 16 comments

Oh Rats! (#FridayFlash)

This wasn’t one of Mason’s ideas, but it does continue the adventures of the exterminator and his enthusiastic sidekick. For more of these two, see Chomp! and Sssssslither!

Image source: openclipart.org
“Lee’s Exterminators.” Lee listened, as Kate said “mm-hmm” several times and scratched at a notepad. “Uh, sure. We can set out bait blocks. Oh. Well, I’ll check with the boss. Can you hold for a moment?”

“What’s going on?” Lee asked, sticking his head out of the office.

Kate had that grin. “They’ve got a detached garage, infested with rats.”

“Don’t tell me it’s—”

“I think it might be an anomaly, yeah. Do we have time to go check it out?”

Lee sighed. “Unfortunately, yes. No scheduled jobs this afternoon.”

“Great! I’ll get the info, call the profs, and we can get going.” Kate was a biology major at the university, and worked for Lee part-time. When a job turned out to be an anomaly, and he’d seen too many of those lately, Kate’s professors paid well for videotape and live specimens. But no amount of money was worth the nightmares.

“They’re… aggressive,” the customer told Lee, rubbing his left arm. “I ain’t seen nothin’ like it. If I didn’t have stuff in there I want to get out, I’d just have the fire department come out and burn it down.”

“Okay,” said Lee. He noted that tone, the one that said you’ll think I’m crazy if I tell you what’s really going on. “Kate, let’s suit up. Sir, if you’d rather go inside while we work, that might be safest.”

“Are you gonna fumigate the garage, then? That’s what I’d do.”

“We’ll see what we’re up against, first. Then we’ll decide what to do.”

“Okay.” The customer sounded doubtful, but fished in his pockets. “Here’s the keys.”

“Video on,” said Kate.

“Keep your shield on the ground,” Lee warned. “Last thing you want is for ‘em to get to your ankles.”

“Roger that.” She stepped forward.

“Kate, it’s my job to go in first.”

“Nope! My turn. I’ll be careful. My insurance is up to date, anyway.” Kate opened the unlocked door before Lee could protest further. “Lights on,” she said. “What the…”

Through the audio pickup, Lee heard a sound like spats of rain. “What’s going on?”

“It’s rat poop,” said Kate. “They’re pushing it off the plywood in the rafters. Like it’s a warning. Interesting.” She drew that last word out, relishing it. “There’s a few of them,” she continued. “Normal size. Brown and white. Weird, they’re not running—shit!”

“Kate!” Lee dashed forward, but Kate was already backing out of the garage.

She turned and gave Lee a wild-eyed look. “If I didn’t know better, I would have thought they—”

Lee looked at Kate’s shield. “Where did that nail come from?”

“Nail?” Kate turned her shield around. “Holy… Lee. We need to check the video. Now.”

“Son of a…” Lee trailed off, as Kate stepped through the video frame by frame. Even with the motion blur, it was obvious.

“They built tools!” Kate exulted. “Weapons! A fracking crossbow! Do you know what that means?”

“It means we’ll have to fumigate the garage after all.”

“Are you crazy? This is an intelligent species! Maybe the only examples! We can’t just exterminate them because—”

“Uh, Kate? We’re exterminators. It’s our job to get rid of animals that invade people’s dwellings. They’re encroaching on human territory. If they were people, they’d be squatting. Trespassing. The police would remove them, using force if necessary.”

“Deadly force?”

“Probably not,” Lee admitted. “But tasers would be a possibility.”

“Taser.” Kate snapped her fingers, rapidly. “Do you have anything like that? Something that would just… knock ‘em out? Sleepy gas?”

“Not with us. Call your profs. Maybe they can suggest something. Then we can let the customer know what’s happening.”

“Ready? Go!” Lee and Kate led the charge, followed by four more biology students. All wore masks and air tanks, and carried cages and grabbers. Kicking the door shut behind them, they waded through the fog of ether and used the grabbers to toss unconscious rats into cages.

“Three nests of babies up here,” said one of the students, standing on a ladder. “And some adults. Looks organized. Almost looks like a daycare.”

“Sweep ‘em into the cage, nests and all,” said Kate. “Try not to mess up the nests. I hope they don’t OD.”

“How many do you think we’ll miss?” Lee asked.

“There’s probably a few up in the insulation,” another student suggested. “Whoa. That looks like a crossbow.”

“It is,” said Kate. They shot nails with it.”

“Day-yam. No wonder you called us in.”

“Got a whole pack of ‘em here,” said Lee. “Let’s get ‘em picked up. What are you guys gonna do with them?”

“The profs have already got some students renovating one of the basement rooms,” said Kate. “Full habitat, observation areas, the works. If we can learn to communicate with them…” she trailed off.

“I still think we should exterminate ‘em,” said Lee. “We’ve got enough politicians around here already.”

Friday, March 07, 2014 13 comments

Spammer, in Hell

I’ve wanted to write this for a long time…

Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Melvin Basgump opened his eyes to find himself staring at an impossibly high ceiling. While he was trying to decide whether it was some kind of optical illusion, a face loomed over him. It was a big face, a stout face, much of it taken up by a bulbous nose; a fringe of hair ran around the top of his head. Like a monk, or something.

Bienvenidos, Señor Basgump,” the man said. “I am Tomas—”

“What’s with the Mexican crap?” Basgump sneered. “Speak American.”

The man looming over him looked unruffled. “Ah, but we are not in America.” His accent wasn’t Mexican, more like that guy who played Khan in that Star Trek movie. “Nevertheless, Melvin Basgump. Welcome to Hell.”


. Your diet consisted of large quantities of what you moderns call ‘junk food,’ high in salt and fat, but low in nutrition. Combined with your propensity to avoid any form of physical activity, an early death was inevitable.”

“Wait, wait,” Basgump stammered. “There has to be some mistake. I don’t belong here. I didn’t do nothing wrong.”

“Ah, are you not aware that gluttony and sloth are both mortal sins? And yet, those in themselves were not sufficient to bring you here, to the place set aside for me. No, you were a career criminal. A spammer, as they say.”

“That’s not illegal!” Basgump protested. “I was running a legitimate marketing enterprise—” a scream of pain cut off his tirade. “My finger! What happened?” He began to sob in pain.

Tomas stepped aside. “Meet my assistant, Miguel.” Miguel was dressed like Tomas, in a simple grey frock, and shared his ugly hairstyle. But Miguel carried a large wooden mallet. “In life, I had many machines to do my work. And now, I have built a new one. When Miguel strikes one of these pegs, it transmits the force of the blow to a single finger. Very precise, no? Fear not, Señor Basgump, each finger will heal instantly, but not soon enough to prevent the deserved pain. Miguel?”

Again, Basgump screamed, as Miguel crushed each finger in turn.

“Now, Señor Basgump, would you like to opt-out your fingers from further mallets?”

“Yes! Yes!”

“Very well. Sign here.” Tomas looked at the page. “Miguel! I have a list of ten fresh, verified fingers! One gold real!”

“No!” Basgump screamed, but to no avail. And yet, he continued to scream as the mallet, through the machine, crushed each of his fingers once again.

“Señor Basgump.” Miguel spoke for the first time. “I have constructed an opt-out database, if you would like to join. Yes? Very well, sign here.” Miguel laid the sheet on an adjacent table; the paper caught fire and burned away. “Oh, dear. It seems that my database has been deleted.”

“Nothing for it, Miguel,” said Tomas. “Do transmit another blast of important information.”

“Who are you people?” Basgump panted afterward, his voice already hoarse from screaming.

“As I said, I am Tomas. Tomas de Torquemada. In life, my very name struck terror into men’s hearts, even the innocent. I was zealous for the Law of God, but failed in the weightier matters, such as mercy. Thus was I sent here, to continue the work I did in life—but with more deserving subjects. So let us continue, Señor Basgump. We have all eternity.”

Wednesday, March 05, 2014 2 comments

The Writing Process Blog Hop

Instead of writing wibbles today, I joined a blog hop! +Patricia Lynne invited me, and I’ll talk a little about her (or repeat what she wanted me to say) first:

Patricia Lynne is a Young Adult writer who never thought writing would become so integral to her life. What started out as a fun way to kill time has turned into an obsession with story ideas crowding her brain at inconvenient times. When she's not writing, she's knitting (you don't have to be a granny to knit!) or making jewelry. More morbid obsessions include reading serial killer profilers. Currently, she lives with her hubby in Upper Michigan, loves to dye her hair the colors of the rainbow, and hopes to have what resembles a petting zoo one day.

Process? Me? Well, I actually have a pretty strict process, but it begins after the first draft. Still, let’s see what I can come up with. There are four questions to answer, which helps.

1) What are you working on?

I usually have three or four projects going at once, in different stages of completion. The fourth Accidental Sorcerers story, Into the Icebound, went to beta readers over the weekend. The next one, tentatively called The Halls of Nightwalk, is an incomplete draft.

Then there’s a zombie novella, and a collaboration with +Angela Kulig that we’ll probably get started on next month, and a dozen or so other things I’d like to get started this year. Dayjobs can be so pesky.

2) How does your work differ from others in its genre?

I’m writing Accidental Sorcerers as a series of novellas, 30K to 40K words each. Most fantasy tends to runs 2–3 times that long. But in the end, there will be about eight stories, so the overall word count should be fairly similar to an epic trilogy.

The other distinction is that the dominant race on Termag (their world) is red rather than white, and the main characters are citizens of a matriarchy.

3) Why do you write what you do?

I tend to write whichever story is most insistent to get out. I’ve had characters bouncing around the inside of my head, driving me to distraction until I finally give up and get their stories written.

4) How does your writing process work?

I’m mostly a pantser, but I've lately begun to at least set up a skeleton if not a formal outline before I start writing. But I’m definitely not a linear writer. If I want to motivate myself to get started with a story, I’ll start with a pivotal scene and work my way out from there. I did that quite a bit with White Pickups; I wrote pieces of the story here and there and worried about how to connect them later. It all worked out pretty well.

After I have the first draft done, I pretty much live in a checklist until I fire the Launch Cannon. There’s a lot going on, with lots of different people I have to wrangle, and it’s easy to forget any part of it. Writing, not so much—I keep filling in holes until I have a complete story.

So that’s it in a nutshell. Let me know if you want to participate next week, and I’ll shoot you a pic and bio.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014 2 comments

Spring #3 comes in like a… kneecap

Winter #3 brought snow and a little ice to FAR Manor, and a recurrence of the winter congestion that lingers for weeks. About the time the snow started melting in earnest, I was finally able to get outside and let Mason play around in what was left. He had a good time all in all, and had a howling fit about having to come inside to get warm and dry.

Then Spring #3 really got itself going, right at the end of February, and it promised a real spring to come (not soon enough). I even drove home with the top down on my Miata one sunny evening, at least until I got about 10 miles from home. There hasn’t been a Winter #4 yet, but it had better hurry up if it’s going to get here. The best part is that weekends have often been warm and sunny, while the crappy weather comes in through the week when I have to be in the office anyway.

Tonya Harding
Tanya, Queen of Kneecaps
So… the last weekend in February. Absolutely gorgeous. I spent a few hours cutting firewood for the not-so-warm nights, then washed my car. Somewhere in there, I banged my knee—the one that isn’t all that good to begin with, of course. I can’t remember how I did it, but thought at the time, “I hope I didn’t knock another bone chip off it.” But it stopped hurting after a couple minutes, so I completely forgot about it and went about my business.

Until evening, when it started hurting. And continued to hurt. By Monday, I was wondering where Reality the crutch had gone (it’s not in the closet where it belongs). To make matters even more fun, that stomach virus going around caught up with me Tuesday, because I couldn’t outrun it. I learned how to limp very quickly to the bathroom.

At work, there’s a first-aid kit with various useful things. There’s a dispenser of stuff called Pain-Aid, which is half aspirin and half ibuprofen. This combination seemed to improve things immensely. By Saturday, it was feeling fairly good… and then the wife had a bunch of errands that needed to be run and no time to run them. Off I went, limping around this store and that, and you can guess the result: by that night it was screaming again.

Rest and ibuprofen (and the ice cuff) have helped; today, it has been mostly usable. Still, it’s off to the doc tomorrow morning to check it out. Once it’s working right, maybe I can enjoy Spring #4.

Monday, March 03, 2014 No comments

Read an eBook Week!

Smashwords has declared it to be Read an eBook Week, and two of my books are in the promo:

Xenocide — FREE with coupon code RW100

The Crossover — FREE all the time! (well, at least through the end of the month)

And while you're at it, why not check out freebies from Tony Noland?


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