General Musings

Game over man…Game over.

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When I started the final chapter of Connect I ended up getting a bit playful and inserted an Easter egg sort of tribute.  I dare say it was somewhat unintentional and was the kind of thing that came out organically in the writing. It is something that usually doesn’t survive a second or third draft, and I have toyed with removing it all together if I get to a more complete re write.

Now with the passing of Bill Paxton I feel like this is something to leave in place.  At the very least I will leave it here:

Chapter 9: The Battle of Diana

 

“I don’t wanna be bold

I don’t wanna be cold

I don’t wanna grow old

I don’t wanna go home

 — Recorded Wisdom of Before, vol. 2, ch. 5

 

“Well Frack. At least we don’t have to worry about getting killed in an ambush.”  Hud said as he stood next to the large armored carrier.

“Why’s that?” Vas asked from her gun turret  atop the vehicle.

“Because we’re gonna die here of old age before we get near that pass. Right Appo?” Hud said looking up at his unit leader who was standing on the side board of the armored carrier. When there was no response from the dark skinned man, Hud repeated his question, “Am I right?”

Appo looked down at Hud and his face did not return Hud’s smile at all.

Hud ignored the look and asked, “I mean it’s better than being up front and having to take point on whatever assault is coming, right Appo?”

“Bah, we so badass that we should be up front. I’d clear a path with these babies.” Vas said patting the large guns of her turret.

“Well, why dontcha walk on up to the front then? Right Appo? I’d bet they’d put her in charge!” Hud laughed.

Appo looked back down at Hud and held the man in a hard stare. “Shut. Up.” He said in a low voice that was laced with violent promises.

“Hah ha! Appo ain’t having none of your shit today Hud.” Vas laughed from her turret.

“Well you can have my shit anytime you want Vas.” Hud called up to the woman, clutching his crotch for emphasis.

“Please. Not if you was the last dick in After.”

“Bah, that’s probably because you already have a dick!”

“If I did, it’d be bigger than that pimple you keep rubbing all night long.”

“Hud! Vas! Stow that shit.” Appo yelled. “Any more from you two and I’m gonna be in need of two new shooters!”

“Yes Sir.” Hud replied with mock sincerity and a lopsided smirk that had Appo fingering his rifle.

“Appo, come in.”  A voice asked over the wireless that Appo had on his weapons harness.

“Appo here. Somebody wake you up Hicks?”  He replied into the small device.

“Yeah, we’re all nodding off up here. How you all doing back there on the ass end?” Hicks replied.

“We good. Bored, but good. Just cleared that rock slide and can finally see this damned pass up ahead. You?”

“Hah! Yeah, we are getting ready to go through. Dathan is only letting one group through at a time. Right now we got about half the assault groups through and setting up on the other side.”

“Solid. This is taking too long for my liking. I’m feeling very exposed out here.”

“Yeah, tell me about it. I’m looking up at the walls of this pass and not liking it. Mern cleared it though, and so far so good.”

“Get through there fast then. I don’t want to be sitting here at night fall.”

Just then there was a loud grating rumble from behind them. Appo turned and looked back down the path behind them. He did not see any movement.

“What was that?” Hud asked.

“Don’t know.”  Appo replied.

“Something up back there?” Hicks’ voice came over the wireless.

Just as Appo was about to reply there came another, louder version of the same sound.

“The slide!” Vas called as she spun her turret around to the back of the carrier. She cocked the large guns, loading the ammo belts for rapid firing.

Appo looked from Vas back to the rock slide behind them. At first it looked like just loose rocks that were tumbling down the side of the mountain and spilling into the road. As he watched, some of the larger ones started to go. Then the whole of the rock slide seemed to come undone and start falling down the mountain like a flood of stone. The sound of the rock fall became a roar. A cloud of dust poured out of the mountain side as the rocks tumbled down, obscuring the road behind them. It billowed out washed over them before the winds started to swirl it about. As the obscurity of the cloud began to fade and the roar of the avalanche turned to a low rumble, Appo felt himself relax.

“Well, I guess we ain’t goin’ back now, eh Appo?” Hud asked looking back at the rock slide that now appeared to be completely blocking the road.

Appo looked closer as the dust cloud continued to thin out. From inside the cloud he thought he saw movement. Secondary slides following the first downhill? He knew he was wrong when he saw two red embers glaring back at him from within the cloud. The low rumble grew as the massive armored nightmare rolled forward up the road; its red sensor eyes glowing with a blood promise of death and a blue-white light dancing along its weaponized arms.

 

Diana watched long enough to see Tank, Jr. light up on the small screen of the controller on her wrist. Tank had named this one, and it brought a smile to her lips now to see it on the screen. When she heard the rumble of the landslide she knew that it had freed itself from its hiding place. She had gotten the idea when she had seen some of the natural slides in the mountains along this road. She had not been sure if the mech would be okay under there, but everything she had seen of the massive machines said that even these large rocks would not hurt it. The trick had been finding a niche in the cliffs along the road that Tank Jr. could fit into and where she could pull down a slide on top of him. Once Ferrin had been able to blast down some of the rocks and cover its brother, all Diana needed was for these Raiders to see just another rockslide and move past it. The real Ferrin had taught her that most times people would miss what is right in front of them when they are looking too far ahead. He taught her to focus on what was around her at all times, and especially when stalking prey. That way she would not miss any signs of the trail or anything that would help her to bring her prey down. For her snare to work she needed the Raiders, especially that Dathan dork, to be looking at the obvious trap of the pass. If they did that, they would ride right past Tank Jr. After half of the day of watching them crawl through the pass one by one, the last bits of their army moved past the fake slide and they were all in her snare.

Diana shifted along the ridge high above the pass. She braced Thumper on the rocks in a position where she had a sight line down on both ends of the Raider’s column. When she put her hand on the grip of the rifle the goggles scrolled through a set of symbols just in the periphery of her vision. This time it settled on a small picture of a stinging flyer. These bullets were different than the long shooting ones that could see. Tank had told her that these ones could do very bad things when they were friends with things like the mechs. She lined up her shot and the goggles did their thing and the target appeared over the fifth truck from the back in the line of raiders. It was a large barrel of a truck and one she knew that it would be filled with the fuel that the trucks used. She let the world slow down and her vision zoomed into a very tight view of the truck, then adjusted her aim and squeezed the trigger.

 

“Let’s Rock!” Vas called and opened up with both guns in her turret. The barrels erupted as a storm of bullets fired out. The mechanical clattering of Vas’ guns and the tinkling rain of the spent shells drowned out the rumbling sound of the mech. Hud and Appo, along with several other Brothers, all followed Vas and opened up with their guns. The barrage ripped into the dust cloud that obscured the mech and peppered its armored hide.

Appo emptied the ammo clip in his rifle at the mech. As he started to reload he saw the blue glow getting brighter from the lower left weapons pod. He was not sure what that was, but knew it could not be good.

“Cover!” he screamed as the blue beams lanced out of the clearing dust cloud. The beams needled through the armored transports at the rear of the column and burned through their armor like it was not even there. Appo watched in horror as his Brothers melted inside the armored vehicles that had protected them through so many other fights. He dove away from the armored carrier he had been near. He leapt too far and had to catch himself before he tumbled over the edge and down several hundred meters to certain death. As he started to pull himself up, he heard the sounds of his Brothers’ guns go silent. All he heard now was the pulsing stitch of the mech’s energy weapon as it lazed back and forth slagging metal, stone, and flesh in its wake.

 

“Cover!” Appo yelled and Hud turned and ran.

After emptying his own rifle into the mech, Hud realized how useless that was. He had heard of these things before. He’d heard that if you saw one, you ran. You ran or you died. So he ran. He headed up the road away from the death machine that was rolling up hill, laying molten waste in its path. As he passed other trucks, and more Brothers, they called out to him. He ignored them and ran. Let them try and take that thing down; he wanted no part of it. One Brother with black markings all over his face grabbed him, screaming something about fighting. Hud shot him in the gut and ran on.

The hill was pretty steep here and after passing the fuel trucks Hud stopped to breath. His lungs and his legs felt like they were on fire and he thought for a minute he might black out. Dropping his rifle he put his hands on his knees and tried to catch his breath. He needed to chase back the black spots that were crowding his vision. The sounds of gunfire and the heavier cannons of the rear guard pounded away behind him. He could hear the Brothers around him yelling to one another. They wanted to go forward, but were blocked in by the other vehicles waiting to get through the pass. The road was just wide enough for two vehicles to be side by side and so they were, leaving no room for vehicles to get around one another. Even if the Brothers at the pass started going through as fast as they could, it would take too long for that movement to reach back down the line this far. That would be much longer than it would take that mech to wipe them out. It did not look good for the trucks, but Hud was on foot now. Once he caught his breath he would just keep headed up the hill away from rolling death back there.

“Brother!” A man next to the fuel truck called. “What the Frack’s going down back there?”

“Bad shit.” Hud called back and picked up his rifle. “We lost the wireless so I’m running up to the front to get everyone moving out.” He lied. “Be ready to move, we gotta get outta here!” He finished between deep breaths. That’s right; no one would give him shit if he had a reason to be getting away from that mech other than trying to stay alive.

He turned to start up the hill again when something slapped into the upper side of the fuel truck with an odd ‘Vip-Splat!’ kind of sound. Hud looked and saw a small greenish jelly blob on the metal of the large tank of fuel. As he looked closer there was a loud set of ‘Phumpt!’s that came from down the hill. Looking back and tracking that sound he saw several rockets fire up from out of the smoke that was part rock slide and part burning vehicles. The rockets cork-screwed straight up leaving intertwining smoke trails behind them. They seemed to have no direction but up; they were not arcing in a way that would drop them on the road or any targets that made sense to Hud.

“What the hells?” the Brother on the tanker called out.

As if in answer to him, Hud saw a small red light start to blink from within the green splat on the side of the tanker. It was muffled, but he thought he could also hear a pleasant chiming sound.

“Look! Look! Look!” the Brother called again and Hud looked up. The corkscrewing rockets all suddenly whipped around and turned over in midair. As the two men watched the rockets turned downward and fired off as one with new found purpose.

“Well frack me…” Hud sighed as the rockets all zipped down directly at him, the green splat, and several thousand loads of highly explosive fuel.

 

So there it is.  A set of Colonial Marines who had no business in Dathan’s horde and for the time being reside in the world of After as an echo from an altogether different place.

bill-paxton__140207095739

R.I.P . Bill Paxton and all the memorable characters that you breathed life into over the years!

 

Checking In

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The door creaks open letting in a sliver of light from beyond. The light is then briefly disturbed and followed by a shuffling sound as something moves  through the darkness. Opposite the door and along the path of the shuffling there is a loud thump, followed by a sharp scraping sound.

“Dammit!”

You gasp.

A sudden silence falls over the room and you know you have been heard.

Cautious footsteps echo in the darkness back towards the doorway and its small beam of light.

There is a click and light floods the room.

“Oh, hello there!  You’re still here.  That’s great!”

So yeah, I have had a lot going and coming back to to this space feels like walking into an old closed up room and finding a long lost friend there.  In a good way, not a ‘It puts the lotion in the basket’ kind of way.

“What’s been going on?”, you ask?

Well let’s see. First, I started a new job last month and that has obvious impacts on my free time for the immediate future.  I also started down the path of a Mac user at this new job which has been less than stellar fun. I am working it out but in a corporate environment with a Microsoft backend and little infrastructure in place to support Macs, the experience leaves a lot on the floor. Outside of that the kids started school in September which is its own special brand of chaos in my household. Throw in a few health issues while changing over benefits between jobs and Wa La! there goes a month or more in the blink of an eye.

So now back to writing and some updates that are more pertinent to this blog…

Since my new job involved more drive time and less time in the comforting embrace of the NY/NJ mass transit system I have started listening to Brandon Sanderson’s Write About Dragons lecture series on YouTube. Basically someone had a great idea to cast his lecture series on novel writing and the publishing industry.  It is all on YouTube and even only a few lectures in I highly recommend it. I watched an episode (?) of it earlier this year on short stories which really drove home my ideas and plans for “47 Seconds”.

SEGWAY!

(well that was subtle)

This is still happening.  I have been getting lots of communication from TANSTAAFL Press about their upcoming “Enter the Apocalypse” series.  My short story “47 Seconds” is slated for book 3: “Enter the Rebirth”.  Super excited about that as it is my first paid writing gig, outside of self published work.

In other news, I may have to make some changes to how “The Mason Chronicles” is published now that the Amazon KDP Police are giving me grief that it is available outside of Amazon.  While almost all of meager sales are from Amazon, part of me wants to remove it from KDP for a variety of reasons now that it has probably run its course.  So more to come on that when I make a decision.

That’s all for now. If you know of any other great resources that are in an audio format that I can listen to while driving hit me up in the comments!

I’ll try not to be as sparse.

Epic Advice from Chuck Wendig on Creating Things and Self Doubt.

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Saw this on Twitter and had to share for those of you who either aren’t on twitter or would not be following Chuck Wendig if you were.  All credit to Chuck for his thoughts on creativity and self doubt, and this is a must read for you creative types out there.

(sorry for duplication but he replied to each tweet, so that seems to be how the embeds work.)

Ed Note:  New favorite word that I want to work into everyday conversation:  –
py·ro·clas·tic ˌpīrōˈklastik/ GEOLOGY adjective relating to, consisting of, or denoting fragments of rock erupted by a volcano.

Good advice.  Nothing for me to add.

Well except that when it comes to D & D, or any role playing game, I always bring the rope.

On Dealing with Internet Reviews

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Making my way back here after the Holidays and catching up on some reviews of my work. Yes some people out there on the internet have actually read my books and decided to comment on them in the various review sections available to them.  As someone who appreciates feedback because I want my product to be the best it can, it’s hard to turn a blind eye.  It’s not all bad (I am but a small fish in the publishing world) but I have to wonder how anyone who garners large volumes of critical attention doesn’t go Jay and Silent Bob on some folks.  (Embedded video is NSFW, just in case the ‘Jay and Silent Bob’ reference didn’t forewarn you.)

Seriously though if you have read my work, please rate it, comment on it, review it, or whatever option is available to you.  Or even comment here.  I won’t show up at your door.  That’s what lackeys are for.

Just a reminder too that my work is on Goodreads, so please feel free to post there, where there is even an Ask the Author section.

Also I have started work on a new short story project and then will probably begin work on Part 3.

On Self Promotion…Advice from a Master

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Over on Engadget, Veronica Belmot enlisted John Scalzi to answer a reader’s question about how to Promote your work.  The Question was:

#DearVeronica ,In this tech age, how should a novice novelist make an impression and promote his book to grab attention of a lot of people?
— Rajat Joshi (@MrRajatJoshi) August 14, 2015

Mr. Scalzi essentially says that aside from writing a great novel that people want to read, you have to be yourself and not just focus on promotion.  If people find you interesting then they will more than likely look to see what it is that you are promoting. From there it comes down the product, nor novel itself.  The Promotion did it’s job and got eyes on your book, and it’s up to the merits of the book to go from there. Conversely if all you do is push your wares then your audience is probably going to hit the mute button in whatever form that takes.  Great advice I think especially since I know I have been guilty of the “Promote! Promote! Promote!” method.

Social media is an amazing tool for self promotion, but not all of us handle it well.  I know I don’t always do good work with it.  I’ll have to take this advice to heart and see where it goes.

So if you’re trying to Promote something yourself, do think this is good advice? What methods have worked for you and what have not?

On the Sins of a World Builder or ‘Why do those Bunnies have Chain-Guns?”

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Over on iO9 there is an interesting little post by Charlie Jane Anders entitled  “7 Deadly Sins of Worldbuilding”

In short the ‘Sins’ cover a variety of mistakes a Creator can make when framing out the World of their narrative.  They cover things from 1) Not thinking about basic infrastructure (plumbing, food, waste management, etc.) to 7) Introducing some superpower, like magic or insane tech, without fully accounting for how it would change society.  

8-ciudades-futuristas-fotos-imagens-futuro-city-ciudadesIt’s an interesting read especially for someone who has engaged in this practice from when I was a little 7th grader handwriting a Sci-Fi
Epic on looseleaf.  I completely agree that world building is essential in Fiction and especially Fantasy and Science Fiction, and these 7 sins certainly address the authenticity of the world.  The world that the characters inhabit and that the plot effects has to feel sensible, even if it it is populated by Dragons, Zombies, and Mutant Bunnies wielding chain-guns.  If it fails the reader’s sniff test, then it risks breaking their suspension of disbelief. It becomes an Easter Egg hunt for what else did the author not think off when they created this world, and the story suffers for its delivery to the reader.

However, to this humble writer’s sensibilities, the worst sin when world building is when the creator has done an excellent job avoiding most, if not all of these sins, but they bring all of that detail into the foreground.  I think the best built, best imagined worlds fall easily into the background and inform the reader of the world around them when want to look about. That is not easy to do because you somehow have to explain how the bunnies became mutated, where did they get their chain-guns from and why they took up the chain-guns in the first place.  Maybe every mutated bunny does not want to use their chain gun.  Maybe they want a rocket launcher. Maybe some of them aren’t feeling the chain gunning as much as the rest of the Bunnies.

Stopping the narrative to have two of Bunnies argue the merits of the Chain-gun over the rocket launcher and who made them and why, often just won’t work.  Why?  Because the Mutated Bunnies know all this.  It’s what is known to them and therefore they don’t stop to explain this to one another while the reader listens in.  Have you ever stood on a subway platform and have the person next to you explain what the subway is, why it exists and why you’re all standing there? Ever have someone come out of the bathroom and explain exactly what they just did in there and what happened when they flushed? (well some of you may have if you know ‘that dude’) The reason is because we all know this information so there’s no reason to discuss it. In fact, in some cases social morays actually prohibit you from pointing out or explaining something that is “inappropriate”. We may refer to it, and an alien listener, i.e. reader, might infer from those references what it going on while these two people stand around impatiently ignoring the large mass of people about them and staring down a large tube into the darkness while standing on a yellow line that several signs about them expressly prohibit them from standing on.

The same holds true for the Bunnies. Perhaps Rocket Launcher’s are frowned upon because in 2147 the Exgenys Corporation stole patents and intellectual property from the Inxel Corporation regarding animal super soldiers and various weapons platforms for support of said super soldiers.  The impending court battle led to a separation of the patents whereby the Chaingun patent and Super Soldier serum for Bunnies was awarded to Exgenys.  Not satisfied with the ruling of the courts, Exgenys went on to breed said super soldier bunnies, armed them with chain-guns built for their little but capable paws and unleashed them on Inxel Corporation.  Inxel fought back with poorly remade Super Soldier Squirrel Monkeys armed with Rocket Launchers.  In the end Exgenys and its Bunnies won out, but the body counts of the bunnies was very high at the hands of the rocket flinging Monkeys.
Thus happened the first open corporate military action in what later turned out to be a long series of skirmishes that devastated vast parts of the world and that was referred to as the “Great Corporate War”. That was later relabeled as the GCW I when, after fifty years of peace, a second rash of battles erupted over terra-forming rights for Mars where Mutated Crabs were hard at work and wanted to unionize became GCW II.

See? It’s all very interesting, but unless part of the narrative happens in a history class for the mutated bunnies all these little nuggets don’t come up naturally.  Even then it might be showing the hand of the Author in that the narrative going into the history class only exists to deliver all of these facts to the reader in a nice little package.

Taken From Dizorb.com

For me the best world building is done outside of the narrative. The little details and facts just drop into place as the story unfolds and the characters, or narrator, fill in the spaces as it makes sense. Often through references that don’t give the reader the whole background and genealogical history of the place or person.

I started Contact with two characters, Mason and C’er, leaving the employment of a Caravan Master and setting out on foot to make ‘Contact’ with someone.  They are in the Salts and the Caravan was coming from the Irons and was headed to Metro.  There are “Strongs” under the employ of the Caravan Master who appear to be armed and dangerous men.  These details all come out through the dialogue and interaction of the characters.  I’m guilty of some narrative explanation but I’ll take that because it is an opening scene and I have to make some of the details easy on the reader at the start.  Even still, there is a lot that can be inferred from these details, but each reader will pick up on different aspects.  Some of these details even open up more questions that are threads back to other stories.  Ones that fill in the background of the world, even while they are not part of this particular story.
So what Stories have the best imagined worlds?  Which ones felt the most authentic?  Which ones felt overdone or fake?  Did I do a terrible job in my work with the worlds of After and Before. (I’m a big boy, I can take it)
Speak up in the comments.

On Being First

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10-19-2015 9-26-55 AM

First place.

First prize.

“First!” posted in the first comment of any comment section of the interwebs.

When is being first, not a good thing?

“Contact” got some great reviews.  Even from people who don’t owe me money, or that I have duct tapped to a chair in a old well.  (‘It puts the review in the basket’)

So what’s up dear readers?

Who’s going to be first?