The Beasts of Trevanta: A snippet

From the sequel to The Hordes of Chanakra, which is proceeding apace:

“You have all heard the tale,” Mahed said at the council. “War Woman would come.  We would follow her into battle, and that battle would be our end.  Since our fathers’ fathers’ fathers’ time the smoke has told us of our fate.  We faced it, unflinching.”

Kaila shifted uncomfortably where she sat in the circle with chiefs and shamans.  In time past she would have welcomed an end of the nomads of Briganzo’s Desert, when she knew them only as those who raided farmsteads flanking the city of Elam.

A year past, Kreg had begun to open her eyes to a different tale.  And now, having lived among them since her escape from Trevanta, accompanied by two nomad children, she found that the thought of their ending pained her.  That she was fated to bring about that end twisted the knife in her heart.

“But then,” Mahed continued, “the smoke told a new tale.  No longer did it say that we would end if we followed War Woman, but that we would end if we did not.”

Mahed stamped twice then raised his hands to the sky. “And now the time is come.  The smoke sends War Woman to us, the smoke of a burning city of stone.” He turned and held out a hand to Kaila. “War Woman is come.”

Kaila met Mahed’s gaze.  She thought she was the only one to see his wink.

One of the chiefs, Kaila thought she remembered that he had been introduced as being Five Stars Clan, stood.

“You say War Woman is come.  Who is this woman?  Who names her War Woman?”

Mahed withdrew the hand he pointed in Kaila’s direction and pointed it another way.

Isemet, seated back from the circle of chiefs and shamans stood. “I name her War Woman.  I, Isemet, of Three Mountains Clan.  I named her when she showed me my death, and then withheld it.”

“A sorceress then?” Five Star Clan said. “Being a sorceress does not make one War Woman.”

“A warrior,” Isemet said. “The equal to any who ride the desert.”

Mahed beckoned Isemet forward.  Isemet stepped past the circle of sitting leaders to stand by Mahed.

“I saw her practicing with her long knife, her sword, and I mocked her.  She offered to test herself against me and I, in my pride, agreed, thinking to teach this woman a lesson.  At first, I offered her the butt of my spear, thinking her unworthy of its point, but she danced aside and struck with her sword, striking with the flat like an elder might use to teach a youngling.” He tapped his forehead to indicate the spot Kaila had hit.

“Again and again, I struck, but she was the wind, never where I struck, yet always ready to sting me, like wind-driven sand, to show me my foolishness.  My anger rose.  I reversed my spear, now facing her with the point.  We fought.  Never had I felt such strength, such speed, not from any warrior of Three Mountains Clan.  And then, when she saw the time was right, she struck the spear from my hands.” He held up his hands, showing them empty. “She placed her sword above my heart, showing me the death I had earned.  She then withdrew it and offered the hand of friendship instead, giving me back my life.” Isemet turned to face Kaila and bowed his head.

“My heart smoke rose up within me then and spoke to me.  And I knew I stood before War Woman, and the time the smoke had foretold had come.  I named her.  And the clan proclaimed it true.”

“You were deluded,” Five Stars Clan said. “Pride spoke to your heart, not heart smoke.  You could not bear to be beaten by a woman so your pride named her War Woman.”

Isemet started to speak, but Mahed held up a hand. “You challenge the claim?”

“I do.”

“Then let War Woman stand forward to defend the claim.”

Kaila stared up at Mahed.

His eyes met hers firmly.  Slowly, he held out a hand, palm up.

Kaila rose to her feet.

“I do not claim the title, War Woman,” Kaila said. “Others say it of me.  But I will not have the courage and honor of young Isemet denied.  If you would name him fool, then stand before me.”

“I do not fight women,” Five Stars Clan said.

“If you would challenge the claim of War Woman,” Mahed said. “You must prove the challenge in combat.”

Slowly, Five Stars Clan rose.  He was shorter than Kaila, but with a body that brought to mind the bole of an old oak, breadth and strength. His hair hung in three long braids, one on each side and one down his back.

He held out a hand. “Wasam, my spear.”

A younger warrior trotted forward carrying a heavy spear which he placed in Five Star Clan’s hand.

Mahed clapped a hand on Kaila’s shoulder as she drew her sword. “Unless you must, do not kill him.”

Kaila nodded.  Her eyes narrowed as she studied Five Star Clan.  He was no Isemet.  There would be no false bravado, no carelessness caused by overconfidence.  He would simply come in to end the fight as quickly, and as decisively as possible.

She smiled.

Five Stars Clan stabbed with his spear.  Kaila spun hers down with a drawstroke that neatly severed the shaft.  In a blur, she stepped forward, with a stab just to the side of Five Star Clan’s head, barely missing his cheek.  She lifted the sword and drew back before skipping back a step.

Silence fell over the watching nomads.  Five Star Clan’s left braid lay on the ground before him.

Five Star Clan looked down at his cloven spear, to the severed braid, then up at Kaila.

“War Woman indeed,” he said then returned to his place in the circle.

Kaila, likewise, returned to her own place, a smile playing at her lips.

For the first time in weeks, she felt fully herself.


Alchemy of Shadows, a Snippet

From one of my current active projects:

Mysterious creatures known only as Shadows have infiltrated the college attended by Our Heroes.  In their attempt to bring Adrian, an immortal alchemist, under their sway, they have hoodwinked the authorities.  Now, our heroes are on the run, having abandoned Adrian’s old car, The Green Monster, in favor of new transportation not known to their enemies.  They are discussing the plans when the conversation goes sideways.

The waitress bringing our food provided an opportunity for me to consider my response.  In the end, I nodded.

“Chuck did seem to be free of the Shadow after the flare burned out, but Becki, remember when I said they need permission?”

“I know,” Becki said, her voice subdued. “I saw.” She sighed. “I always knew Chuck was…determined…to be a star but I never thought he’d make a pact with the devil to do it.”

“I did,” Jeff said.

Becki rounded on him. “You never liked Chuck.  You…”

“No.” Jeff ran over whatever Becki was going to say. “I didn’t.  I thought he was a self-righteous bastard who would do anything, anything to get his way.  And I was right, too.”

Becki slumped, deflated, in her seat.  She sat silent for several seconds before looking up. “I know.”

“You should find a nicer guy,” Jeff said. “Someone like Adrian here.”

My jaw dropped. “Hey, what?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Becki said.

My heart clenched at Becki’s words but I told it firmly to keep its own counsel.  I would not get involved with this young woman more than I already was.  I would not.  I should be glad that she felt the same way.

“No, think about it,” Jeff said. “He’s always been there when you needed him, whether it’s been help with your calculus…”

“I bet that’s not the first time he’s studied calculus.  I bet he studied with Isaac Newton.”

I sighed. “No, never met the man.  Nor Leibniz nor Gauss nor Laplace.  I’ve lived a long time.  That does not mean I’ve met every famous figure in your history books.  I was conscripted for the Civil War.  I did not, however, meet either General Grant or Abraham Lincoln.”

“But you did study calculus before.  This wasn’t the first time.”

I shrugged. “No.  It wasn’t.  Once credentials started becoming important I had to start going back to school when I started a new life.  That meant taking a lot of the same basic classes.”

“Exactly, so you…”

“Was always there when we needed him,” Jeff rolled over her again. “Rides?  The Green Monster was always available.” He met my eyes. “And don’t think I haven’t figured out that you slipped me a mickey that time.  Same stuff you used on the cop?”

“Same stuff,” I said. “There was nothing you could do by worrying and you needed to rest.”

“Exactly,” Jeff said. “I needed.  You’ve always come through with what I, or Becki, needed.” He fixed his glare on Becki. “You could do worse.  A lot worse.”

I held up my hands. “Hey, wait a minute.  What makes you think that I…”

Jeff threw up his hands in a dramatic gesture. “Just because I’m good at football, why does everybody think I’m stupid?  I have eyes.  I’ve seen your face when she walks into the room.”

Becki’s voice was soft. “Don’t be…don’t be…silly.”

Jeff stood up. “Hey, everybody!”  He pointed at Becki. “This is my sister.  If the two of them have any brains at all, this–” He pointed at me. “–is her new boyfriend.”

I stared at Jeff, my face frozen in shock.  I switched my gaze to Becki to see her equally stunned.  I closed my eyes and let my head fall forward onto folded arms.

I had centuries of experience on these two, a lifetime they could never imagine.  So why did I feel so completely overwhelmed, so completely out of my depth?

When did my life get so out of control?

One week with a CPAP/APAP

Well, it’s been a week.

The first night, I only ended up getting about three hours of use because the mask first came completely off.  Then, after I woke and put it back on, it kept slipping off my nose so large chunks of time didn’t “count”.  Three out of six hours.  I woke up with my nose sore.  The thing had counted something like eight events per hour, and ran the pressure up to like 18 cm (near the 20 cm maximum of the unit).

Since that time, some adjustment of the straps (I had them positioned badly) helps keep the mask in place while not being near so tight.  The unit stays on through the night.  I don’t wake up during the night as often and usually that’s just a matter of roll over and go back to sleep.  I think maybe something about wearing the mask suppresses my natural tendency to turn over when the side pressing against the mattress gets sore and it’s the soreness that wakes me.  Overnight pressure when I check the thing is 11.5 cm.  Leak rate was 16 l/m which is fine.

And last night the “apnea events per hour” was zero.

So what does this mean for me?  Well, first off, my sleep is still being interrupted.  The “waking up to turn over” thing.  I wake up with a sore nose.  It’s like when you have a severe cold and your nose gets very tender from frequent rubbing with tissues.  And my nose always seems dried out.   I tried running the unit humidifier all the way to maximum, enough that I got water dripping at the joint in the hose making my pillow wet, but my nose still felt dry in the morning.  I’ve backed off a bit on the humidifier setting figuring I’d just have to live with it.

On the other hand, before I used the CPAP, I’d sit in the office trying to work and my eyes would start to close and my head to droop. I’d catch myself, get back to work, then it would happen again.  This went on from mid-morning until I finally went to bed.  Every day.  I’d fight it off with caffeine, lots and lots of caffeine (can’t stand coffee, can barely tolerate tea, so this meant lots and lots of diet cola).

That stopped, from the first, rather unsuccessful use of the CPAP.  I was actually awake and not fighting to stay so during the day.

I’m better able to focus and concentrate at work.  And, this is the big one, my writing productivity is up.  I’ve never been a particularly fast writer and I’m still not, but I’m putting out about twice as much copy per day as I was doing before.

Overall, I am very pleased.  Some of the issues that I’m still having I’m hoping will improve with time (the nose soreness).  But, apparently, a good night’s sleep is worth some discomfort.


I was wrong

I am motivated to make today’s post early.

It’s been eight days shy of a year since Donald Trump became President of the United States. (Yes, if you’re a US Citizen he is your President whether you like it or not.)

Before the election, I was utterly convinced Trump would be at least as big a disaster as Hillary. His history was pretty strongly left wing. Even in the campaign he’d thrown five, arguably six, of the amendments in the Bill of Rights under the bus. And the only thing to counter that was his rhetoric–words from a man who wrote the book (literally) on “sell the fantasy”, in saying what you have to to make the deal, who had admitted that what he was saying was “just flexible suggestions.” And once he started to govern from a left-wing position (as I fully expected) all of the results would be blamed on “the right” (which to the media means anybody not left-liberal-progressive, ignoring the actual complexities of people’s positions). And that would be all she wrote for the Republic for at least a generation, probably a century.

I was wrong. Praise Odin, I was wrong. I was wrong. I was wrong. I was wrong. I have never been so glad to be wrong in my entire life. That’s not hyperbole. I mean that with complete sincerity.

Even now, if he were to revert to the left-wing kleptocrat that I expected during the campaign, there are things that are done that won’t be undone, not easily. Goresuch on the Supreme Court (not perfect, but oh so much better than anyone Hillary would have nominated). Other judicial nominees.

For the first time in more than a decade, I actually have hope that the light of Freedom will not be extinguished in my lifetime.

Inspiration from a Comic Book

Back when I was younger I practically lived for super hero comic books.  I lived vicariously the adventures of the heroes and heroines within them.  And before I grew up and got “respectable” I wanted to be a super hero and, if I may be frank, a part of me never really outgrew that.  And it’s with sadness that I realize I can’t, that the world doesn’t work that way and I would accomplish no more than to get myself stupidly killed accomplishing nothing.

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t good inspiration that can be taken from comics.  And one of my favorites back before my general disaffection with comics (part of their generally becoming darker long about the mid 80’s–I pretty much drifted away after DC’s “Crisis on Infinite Earth’s”) was Marvel’s Captain America.  Well, it was recently brought to my attention that as of the “Civil War” arc of a few years ago Cap was still a worthy source of inspiration:

“I remember the first time I really understood what it was to be an American…What it was to be a patriot.”

“I was just a kid…A million years ago, it seems sometimes. Maybe twelve. I was reading Mark Twain.

And he wrote something that struck me right down to my core…something so powerful, so true, that it changed my life. I memorized it so I could repeat it to myself, over and over across the years. He wrote –‘In a republic, who is the country?

Is it the government which is for the moment in the saddle? Why, the government is merely a temporary servant: it cannot be its prerogative to determine what is right and what is wrong, and decide who is a patriot and who isn’t. It’s function is to obey orders, not originate them.

Who, then is the country? Is it the newspaper? Is it the pulpit? Why, these are mere parts of the country, not the whole of it, they have not command,  they have only their little share in the command.

In a monarchy, the king and his family are the country: In a republic it is the common voice of the people each of you, for himself, by himself and on his own responsibility, must speak.

It is a solemn and weighty responsibility, and not lightly to be flung aside at the bullying of pulpit, press, government, or the empty catchphrases of politicians.

Each must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, and which course is patriotic and which isn’t. You cannot shirk this and be a man.

To decide it against your convictions is to be an unqualified and inexcusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let men label you as they may.

If you alone of all the nation shall decide one way, and that way be the right way according to your convictions of the right, you have your duty by yourself and by your country. Hold up your head. You have nothing to be ashamed of’.”

Cap continues, “Doesn’t matter what the press says. Doesn’t matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn’t matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right.

This nation was founded on one principle above all else: The requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences.

When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree besides the river of truth, and tell the whole world–

No you move.”

This, of course, isn’t the first stirring speech that Captain America made.  He was noted for them.  Another good one, involving his intervention in an altercation between a neo-Nazi group and a group of Jewish counter-protesters.  Protest and counter-protest quickly grows into riot.  Cap intervenes, breaking up the fight, and…

“All my life I’ve had a habit of making speeches.  Some people have criticized me for it.  They may be right.  Because I cannot express with words the horror I feel at seeing what you’ve done here today.

Don’t you realize that in your attack, you’ve attacked your own freedom as well?

The Freedom that guarantees all ideas–both noble and ignoble–the expression that is imperative if our society is to survive!

[Ed:  speaking to Jewish protestor] You!  Can’t you see that in stooping to your enemy’s level–you’re being made over in his image–that you’re becoming the very thing you loathe?

[Ed:  Speaking to Neo-nazi] And You!  In your fear and ignorance you deny reality!  Rewrite history!  I wish I could take you back with me to the day we liberated Diebenwald [Ed:  Presume this is the name given to one of the death camps in the Marvel Universe]–let you smell the stomach-churning stench of death–let you see the mountain of corpses left behind by the corrupt madman and murderer you idolize!

You two aren’t interested in the truthare you?

You’re only interested in your own self-consuming hate.

Two of  a kind.

Even in short bits:

When a government functionary demanded that he submit himself to following government orders:

I’m not Captain President or Captain Government.  I’m Captain America.

Or when a General comments that he knows Captain America is loyal:

[Ed:  Touching the hem of a flag] I’m loyal to nothing, General–except the dream.

Since then, the company that put those words in Cap’s mouth seemed bound and determined to destroy the very ideals he stood for.

But the old ones are still out there, and still worthy of being a good place to seek inspiration.

The dream…survives.


A modest proposal

You know, I’ve been looking at this budget crisis and it occurs to me. Would it really be such a horrible thing to live on the budget we had in, say, 2004? Even the fight against ISIS, et al, isn’t really more expensive than the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns we were fighting then, right?

So why not set the budget equal to what it was in 2004. Oh, there will have to be adjustments. I think it’s reasonable to increase the budget proportional for the US population. After all, a lot of functions do scale with the number of people “served” by the government. Not all of them, but let’s use that anyway so we can be generous and increase the budget by 12.3% to account for that population increase.

Prices have gone up too, so we’d better increase the budget to accommodate that as well. The figures I’ve seen give a net 29% inflation between 2004 and today. So let’s increase the budget that amount as well.

So, let’s see, the expenditures of the us government in 2004 (right off the GPO’s .gov web site) were 2.3 trillion. Increase that by 12.3% then again by 29% and we get a value of $3.33 trillion.

The CBO’s estimate for 2017 tax revenue will be $3.377 trillion.  That not only completely wipes out the deficit, but leave $47 billion extra to start paying down the debt.

Sure, not everybody would get everything they want, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world, would it? After all, it wasn’t the end of the world in 2004 so I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be today.

What has been done, can be done.

New Book up and Available

A bit of fiddling was necessary with the cover, but the new book is now up and available.

$0.99 in Kindle Store. Free to read on Kindle Unlimited.

Three tales, each giving a different view of the God of Thunder:

Donner Rothskegg:  When a struggling family man is mugged on his way home, a homeless drifter saves him.  Strangeness follows this drifter who proves to be more than he at first appears.

In the Hall of the Giant:  Thor and Loki journey to Jötunheim, the land of the giants.  There, Thor faces his most difficult challenge, and his most implacable foe.

God of Thunder: In the waning days of the Viking colonies on Greenland, a young warrior follows Skraelings, raiders from the icy waste even further to the north, that had been attacking their village.  He finds something even stranger and more terrifying and discovers the truth of the old stories.