Monthly Archives: August 2011

Brunch! now being served.

Sneaking in just before the end of the month (for no particular reason) is our new page and feature, Brunch!

Of particular interest to our Hawaiian friends and anyone else who likes SPAM, Brunch! will details of the more amusing spam comments we receive.

Enjoy!

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Blood Fury First Draft finished

So, yesterday I finished the first draft of Blood Fury, my first novel in the maran world.

Now, I need people to read it and give me critical feedback. If you think you are up to the task, please let me know and I will get you a copy.

Currently, it is on the short side at just over 25,000 words (the ‘average’ sci-fi/fantasy novel is around 60-80,000 words). One of the things I am looking for is areas where the reader thinks the book could use some more depth.

Reply via comment here with your email address, to my email, or on my twitter or facebook pages if you are interested.

 

Thanks!

-Mike

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You know your site made it onto spam lists when…

So, in the last few days, our site has seen a 8000% increase in the amount of spam comments appearing. I suspect this is coming from a few reviews I wrote for critters: the timing works out to look like someone wasn’t happy with my critique and forwarded my signature line URL to some spam site. Thanks for that!

Thank goodness the auto-detect software is pretty good, it stops this nonsense from actually reaching your eyes, dear readers.  But so far I’ve had comments such as the following, which made me laugh.

hotshotbaldcop commented on Brats to say “I didn’t know that.” What exactly didn’t you know, baldie?

Someone from a fandango.com email address (and thus you would think it would have been on one of my movie reviews, but wasn’t) posted on Dreamchasers to say “Well put from an awesome blogger.” Well put? It was a short story.

There are others, but I deleted them and don’t remember the exact wordings. You get the idea.

It’s not that I mind that these people are spamming my comments and trying to get people to click on their links that I mind so much, it’s the fact that they clearly didn’t bother to read the page they are commenting on. So very sad. I cry now.

Waah.

 

 

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Silent War: Dawning

This is Chapter 1 of a work-in-progress novel. Future updates, if I post them, will be on the DWE pages.

Fire Control Technician Second Class Reiley Stewart sat on his bunk, staring at the letter in his hand. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say he was staring through the letter in his hand, since his eyes had long since ceased to focus on the plastic flimsy of the letter itself. The more he sat and stared, the more of a crease developed between his brows.

“Stewart,” a voice like a grizzly bear gargling concrete rubble intruded into Reiley’s private thoughts. Gunner’s Mate First Class Wolfram “Wolfie” Steig stared down at Reiley in concern. “You ok there, buddy? It’s not The Letter, is it?” The Letter was a tradition of Navy life: months, sometimes years spent drifting between the stars often proved too much for girlfriends, boyfriends, husbands, and wives.

“What?” Reiley blinked his way back to the present, looking up at the short, stocky, bald Gunner’s Mate above him. “Oh, uh, no. I don’t have a girl. I got The Letter a year ago, and haven’t bothered to do more than hook up for a one-night during R&R since.” He waved the flimsy so the harsh actinic overhead lights glistened off the shiny plastic and cast ephemeral rainbows on the gunmetal bulkheads of the bunkroom. “This is from Peterson. You remember him? That Marine we used to go shore with?”

“Peterson, yeah,” Steig nodded thoughtfully. “He mustered out what, a year ago? Good man. Kept his wits about him even after a hard night of drinking.” Steig began to chuckle softly, a noise not unlike putting a handful of gravel in the tumble dryer with your laundry. “Remember that time on Beta Kentarus Five-A when those miners tried to pick a brawl with us?” The compact little man sighed happily, “Good times. Good times.”

Reiley’s lips twitched momentarily at the memory of that fight also. The four of them, Peterson, Steig, a junior rating they were drinking with, and himself had all barely made it out before the station’s Master-at-Arms and his crew showed up. Then they had to lay low for a few days until the more obvious cuts and bruises healed enough it wasn’t too obvious what had happened to them. He shook his head then, clearing it. “Yeah, that was fun. And yeah, that’s the guy. I’ve written him a few times since he got out. Just keeping in touch, you know? But, his letters back are odd.”

“Odd how?”

“Well, like this one,” Reiley again waved the flimsy and again rainbows existed for the briefest of moments in a place where no rainbows had any right to be. “In my letter, I was talking about that time we flew ’round the bulk of that gas giant in Contested Twelve. Remember, the one with the giant double rings? There were pics of it on the ship’s sphere for weeks. The thing is, Peterson and me, we were in Forward Missile Bay 7 doing some routine checks on the equipment. Well, I was, he was just keeping me company. And we saw it out the observation blister when we rounded the planet and came into sunlight. The pictures didn’t do it justice, seeing it like that. The light sparkled on the ring ice like a billion billion diamonds. It was incredible. The sort of thing you never forget, like c-beams glittering in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate.”

“Sounds impressive,” Steig nodded thoughtfully, trying to picture it in his head. “So, what’s the problem?”

“He claims we were never in Contested Twelve. He claims that was Saturn, in Home 1, near Earth.”

Steig frowned at this, shaking his head. “No, it was Contested 12. I remember clearly. The pictures everywhere on the sphere… yeah. Huh.” He shrugged helplessly. “Maybe Peterson forgot? Or…” he trailed off uncomfortably.

“Or what?” Reiley demanded.

“Well, it’s been said that sometimes, Navy men like us, when we finally muster out and ship home… we can’t deal with it. The banality of living in the Homeworlds, all nice and safe. They don’t understand what’s really going on out there, you know. They don’t realize the importance. To them the most important thing in the world is who is going to win the Cup this year, and whether or not the neighbor’s lemon tree is overhanging your fence by a few inches or not. Maybe he… maybe he cracked, just a little?”

“Bullshit,” Reiley dismissed the idea with a snarl and a wave of his hand. “Peterson wouldn’t crack over something that minor. Or if he did, he’d smash that neighbor’s head into the fence. You remember him, he never did anything small. Screwing up details of a mission like this, that’s just not his thing. If he was going to blow, there’d be bodies.”

Steig chewed on his lower lip for a moment as he pondered. With another powerful shrug, he said, “Well, you’re mustering out yourself when we get back to Ares, right? You could always look him up and ask him yourself what’s going on.”

“Yeah,” Reiley nodded, still not happy about the situation. “I guess that’s just what I’ll have to do.” He glanced up at the big digital clock on the ceiling of the bunkroom. “Two weeks, one day, five hours and some,” he grinned suddenly. “I tell you what I’m not going to miss: sleeping four to a room with you guys. Don’t know if I ever told you this, Gunny, but you snore.”

“Do not.”

“Like a drunken water buffalo.”

———- Continue reading

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Marcus Nispel the Barbarian

I just returned home from lunch and a morning showing of Conan the Barbarian. The lunch was good.

That is, perhaps, unkind of me. Conan was half of a decent movie. The first half. It’s not high literature or anything, of course. It’s not War and Peace or Gone With the Wind. But for a movie about a guy who has no real aspirations in life beyond killing and having sex, it was about as good as you could expect. Reasonably well written, with an engaging cast. My only complaints through the first half of the movie were the sound mix being too heavily in favor of the generic action movie soundtrack, and the occasional continuity error (Conan’s sleeve changes Armor Class rather dramatically in one scene, and he seems strangely resistant to being cut, even by sword blows to the face).

But these are things you take with a grain of salt when dealing with a genre of movie typified by such titles as Krull, Deathstalker, and Ator the Fighting Eagle. We’re not here to see a realistic recreation of the heartbreak caused by war-torn France in the Great War, we’re here to see a guy with massive muscles and no shirt killing hordes of bad guys for some vague reason or other, and the first half of the movie doesn’t disappoint.

In fact, there are moments of brilliance. The love-interest Tamara, for example, played by Rachel Nichols, is an ass-kicking warrior-monk who racks up a body count only slightly smaller than that of the titular character himself during a couple of scenes early on. Her first introduction to Conan, in fact, involves her punching him square in the face. A good start, I should think.

Things are going well. The villain is properly villainous, his daughter (played by Rose McGowan who has never looked more creepy) is properly obsequious AND villainous, and Jason Momoa’s Conan flexes, growls, and glistens in a way that will have even non-sci-fi women looking up Stargate: Atlantis on Netflix.

Then there comes a scene where the badguys sneak aboard the ship Conan and Tamara are on. And from there, you can practically hear the Fonz jumping that shark in the background.

Caution: There be spoilers in the rest of this rant.

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Brats Boiled in Beer, with German mustard

Inspired by my friend Amei. Thanks!

Grandmother Lazybones looked out the window of her cottage and sighed. Not for the first time, either.

It had been a long day, and she was hungry. There was, however, nothing in the cupboard to eat. Which meant it was time to go out and get something. Being lazy, she liked to know what she was going to get before she left the house, since it made shopping easier. Thus, she withdrew her recipe book from the shelf and flipped idly through the pages, waiting for inspiration to strike.

And strike it did, like the axe of a woodsman cutting off a head. “Brats boiled in beer, with grilled onions and dark German mustard on a roll,” she muttered aloud as she gazed at the recipe there on the open page. She sucked on her teeth as she considered it for a moment before nodding firmly to herself. It was decided.

“Let us see, let us see,” she stood from the stool she was sitting on and began to wander the kitchen, pacing as she planned out her shopping trip. “There are onions in the garden, so that’s ok. I need the roll, the mustard, and of course the brats. I think I have some beer left over from last October. Let us see, let us see.” She went to the cold cellar and looked inside. Sure enough, an entire keg of good, dark German beer left from last Octoberfest. Wait, was it Octoberfest? Were they doing that yet? Well in any event, she had beer and she had onions. Time to go shopping.

She put on her best shawl and strode to the small living-room. Settling herself on her favorite chair, she commanded, “Turn your front to the village and walk and walk and walk.” The cottage lurched, as if in an earthquake, but Grandmother Lazybones was expecting that and she held on to the arms of her favorite chair tightly. The cottage swayed slightly side to side as it walked through the forest, and Grandmother Lazybones, lulled by the motion, took herself a little nap.

When she awoke, it was late afternoon and a village was seen through the window. She slowly rose to her feet, trying to ignore the popping of her joints. “I’m getting old,” she thought. Not for the first time, either.

Slipping out the door, she turned to her cottage and said, “Turn your back to me, and your face to the forest.” As she turned to begin the short trip into the village, the door vanished behind her. With the ease of long practice, she stepped aside just as three riders thundered past: one on a white horse, one on a red, and one on a horse as black as pitch. “Hooligans,” she muttered irritably.

Arriving at the village, she paused and sniffed deeply. The smell of bread, baked that morning but still fresh enough, drifted to her from a bakery in the center of town, and so there she trudged, a-grumbling all the way. The bell over the door jingled merrily as she pushed her way inside. The baker’s wife was a plump, cheerful woman with red, round cheeks and a pleasant smile. “Welcome, Grandmother,” she said politely in German, and Grandmother Lazybones smiled that she was in the right place. “What can I get you this fine afternoon?”

“Two rolls, if you please,” Grandmother Lazybones asked in her old voice like the creaking of a door in an abandoned house. “Nice, plump rolls for some nice plump brats I intend to boil in beer and eat with onions and mustard.”

“Ooh, I have just the thing,” the baker’s wife smiled as she stood on a small stool to reach the high shelf. “And we have mustard too, if you need some.”

“I do,” Grandmother Lazybones smiled, her sharp, rotting teeth visible for a moment before she hid them away again. “I will have a pot of that also. I don’t suppose you have any brats?”

The baker’s wife set the rolls on the counter and began wrapping them in paper. “Oh no,” she said with a shake of her head, “We’re a bakers, not a butchers. You can try up the road, Herr Sweinbaur has been known to make bratwurst from time to time.” She set the pot of mustard next to the paper-wrapped bundle and said, “That will be 2 coins, if you please.”

“That’s not what I…” the old crone trailed off with a shake of her head. “Never mind, it doesn’t matter. Here are your coins,” she handed the baker’s wife two bits of rock from the road outside. The baker’s wife smiled and thanked her, and wished her well. The bell over the door jingled merrily as Grandmother Lazybones left the shop.

“Now, about those brats,” she sucked on her teeth for a moment. “Well, no help for it. I’m too tired and too old to be wandering all over town, I’ll just have to make my meat come to me.” She began to trundle back to her cottage, dropping bits of dirt as she walked and each bit of dirt became a glazed cookie when it hit the ground.

Arriving at her cottage again, she told it firmly, “Turn your back to the forest and your face to me!”  Grudgingly the door appeared and she smacked the the jamb as she stepped through. The cottage shook slightly in response. Grandmother Lazybones stood for a moment, her hand on the wall, and she muttered to herself. “Walls of gingerbread, shingles of icing. Windows of sugared glass and frost of peppermint creme. House of wonder, childhood’s dream.” Then she went inside the gingerbread walls and set her bundle on the table. She looked out the sugared glass windows with their dusting of peppermint creme ice, and waited for her meat to come to her.

“Oh, goodness me,” Grandmother Lazybones shook her head in annoyance at her forgetful ways. “I almost forgot to put the beer on to warm.” Down into the cold cellar she went to bring back the keg of beer. She poured a couple of gallons into the big cauldron over the fire, and banked the blaze to keep the beer warm but not yet boiling. Soon, the house smelled pleasantly of hops and barley.

Voices from outside distracted her from her musings, and Grandmother Lazybones glanced out the rock sugar window. Two children, blond of hair and blue of eye and red of cheek, came skipping up the road towards her cottage. They would stop every few yards, alternating as they bent over to pick up this bit of cookie or that sweetmeat, and pop them between their fleshy lips. Fingers were sucked noisily as they skipped onto the next treat.

Suddenly one, the girl, saw the cottage and gasped. “Hans, look!” she cried, pointing at the fairy-tale confection house. They turned to look at each other and desire shone in their eyes. They darted forward as one and began to rip pieces of the house off with their greedy, grubby little hands. Grandmother Lazybones smiled inside and waited.

Soon, the voices of the two children grew sluggish. The children, stuffed to the gills on sweets, leaned against the wall under the window to take a nap.

Later still, as Grandmother Lazybones stirred the cauldron filled with beer and two plump brats, she sucked on her teeth and thought about the wonderful meal to come. Soon, she would suck the succulent flesh from bones and wash it down with good, dark beer.

Not for the first time, either.

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Rabbit Hole 2.0

This is in response to Sonia G. Medeiros‘ August Flash Fiction Challenge: Doorways.

In retrospect, we should have realized it wouldn’t be that easy. After all, we’d all read the reports. It almost felt like we’d grown up with them.

It took the NSA, working with NASA and Google Earth, all of five days to find the Doorway. It was more or less where we all thought it would be: near a big tree on the grounds of an ancient estate in England. Getting permission from the British government to allow a US SOD team access took only slightly longer. I guess Whitehall still felt it owed Washington over that thing from last year.

So there we were, my team and I, doing final gear check. It felt surreal to be doing this on a nicely trimmed lawn, beside some meticulously maintained topiary and not more than a dozen meters from a freshly-painted white gazebo. Luckily, it was well fed and didn’t attack.

One by one, we called out our ready status, and the Captain stepped up to give us his traditional pre-mission pep talk. We’d all heard it so many times most of us ignored him until he finally rambled his way to the end and then said those fateful words, “Team, you have a green light. Go to red.”

“Huah!” we all grunted in unison, and the racket of bolts being pulled back on our M-4s was as oddly out of place in the pastoral setting as the rest of this entire mission. Really, it should have been an omen. Even Fernandez, with his obsession with superstitions, missed this one. Poor Fernandez.

Halsford had point. He  approached the Doorway in classic text-book form and we stacked up on him. He looked at each of us to make sure we were ready and focused, then he flipped open the hatch and we all pointed weapons down. Nothing to see at first, just a dirt tunnel leading down. Ropes were tied around the nearby birch, and carabiners hooked to belts. We rappelled down. It was a long way to the bottom.

Halsford and the FNG took up positions in front of each of the two doors we found at the bottom, and we all shared a silent moment of amusement at how the FNG had to crouch to keep his weapon level with the imagined center-of-mass of anything that might come out of that second, 2′ tall door.

“Where are we?” I snapped as I unstrapped myself from the rope. First on, last off as the saying goes.

“We got it sir,” Adams responded smartly. I looked over to find him pointing at a table pushed up against the side of the room. And sure enough, there it was, just like the reports. The bottle, the cake, the key, the signs. Forewarned is forearmed they say, so Adams pocketed the key before reaching for the bottle. As he lifted it, he displaced the sign and it fell face-down on the table. That’s ok, we all knew what it said.

“Drink me.”

 

—–

Update: This has been expanded into the first part of  a chapter for a full-length novel. See more at the DWE page.

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