Snippet from a Work in Progress

Currently titled “Study in Black and Red”.  Looks to be a short novelette, probably in the 8000 word range.

Leslie slid the key into the lock of his apartment door.  Karen, his girlfriend, not content to wait until they were within tickled the back of his neck.

Leslie pushed the door open and turned.  Karen melted into his arms and tilted her face up for Leslie’s kiss.

“It’s been a long day,” Leslie said as he broke the kiss. “Make yourself comfortable while I grab a quick shower.”

“Don’t take too long.”

While the apartment was in one of the less affluent districts of town it did have plenty of hot water.  A few minutes later Leslie stepped out of the shower and wrapped a robe around himself.

A cloud of vapor billowed out of the bathroom when Leslie opened the door.  He did not see Karen but did see the open door to his studio.

Despite the warmth of the humid air Leslie felt a shiver run up his spine.

“Not again.”

He crossed the hallway to the studio, his feet leaving wet footprints on the fake wood floor.  In the studio he saw Karen looking up at a painting, a big twenty-four by thirty-six piece.  Acrylic on canvas.

“Leslie, this is your best one yet,” Karen stood admiring the painting. “If a bit dark.”

The painting showed Philadelphia burning.  Thick black smoke blotted out the sky.  Tiny people ran, clearly screaming, in the streets beneath buildings engulfed in flame.

His work.  His painting.  Any inspection would show that.  From his signature in the lower right corner to the style.  Right down to the brush strokes.

The only problem was Leslie did not know where the painting had come from.  It had not been there when he had left for his date with Karen.  More than a dozen times he had found paintings in his studio, his paintings, but with no memory of having painted them.  He thought he had been sleep-painting or having some kind of fugue state.  But this one?  He had not even been home and here the painting was, a painting showing a terrible scene of fire and death.  But a painting that was clearly his work.

Where had it come from?

Getting my Daughter into Shooting Competition

 

Some time back when my daughter was on one of the local swim teams she came to me with a request.  She wanted to get a cartilage piercing in her ears.  She already had the typical lobe piercing.

I’m generally willing to allow her fashion choices so long as they aren’t too outre or cause permanent issues that she may end up regretting later.  This was something I was willing to allow but I wanted to make sure she was serious and, frankly, this was a good opportunity to get her to push beyond her “comfort zone”.  So I told her that she could do it if she qualified for Divisionals on the swim team for at least one event.  This requires meeting a qualifying time and was well within her capability if she pushed hard.

As things happened however, because of reasons beyond her control, swim team became an issue and she could not continue.  She, however, still wanted to get the cartilage piercing so I told her “find something else to make a good challenge.  Bring it to me and if I approve we’ll make that the challenge.”

“Like what?” she asked.

“That’s up to you,” I said. “Maybe it could be related to your art, maybe to your cello, maybe to your shooting (She’d started shooting seriously about September of last year), but you come up with something.  Coming up with something is part of the challenge.”

Okay, it didn’t quite go down like that.  There was more back and forth, but that was the essence.

So, yesterday she came back to me with the idea of getting into shooting competition, but she was having trouble finding something.

I was pleased enough by her choice that I decided to help her out.  I did some looking at my own using my Google-fu and… Wow.  that was confusing.  I’m big on rights but I’m only a moderate “gun geek” and know next to nothing about the competition side.  Fortunately, I had a resource she did not have:  I have a bunch of friends who are gun-guys on Facebook.  Plus, I’m a participant in several groups where a lot of gun guys hang out.  So I asked.

One of the issues is that right now budget is tight.  She’s welcome to use anything in my safe but most of it really isn’t suited to her size.  She’s got use of an AR pattern rifle with a 22LR upper at the moment (the adjustable stock lets her use it whereas mine, set up like the M-16 I trained on in the Air Force, has a stock a bit long for her) and I’ve got a couple of handguns she can handle.  But the only thing I have in 22LR is a cheap piece of junk I bought when I didn’t know any better.

I received several suggestions.  One was to attend an Appleseed event, which seems like a good idea if we can work the scheduling and find an event nearby.  Others included International Practical Pistol Confederation, Olympic style shooting, and others that looked to be rather expensive even at a beginning level.

One that was suggested, however, was rimfire steel challenge. That looked fairly straightforward, something a bit different from the slow-fire target shooting she’d been doing.  I found this video demonstrating it:

So I went looking for local clubs.  There isn’t one in my town.  The nearest is 35 miles away.  The nearest with a web site is 40 miles away.  However the regular range we go to is 60 miles away so that’s not a problem.  I’ve contacted them and asked what I need and how to get her started in it.

So, it’s a start.

Feeding the Active Writer: chocolate dessert omelet.

As I have mentioned from time to time I have a big sweet tooth.  But when you’re on a low-carb diet that’s a challenge.  Here’s a quick and easy recipe to make a sweet treat   If you’re not on a low-carb diet feel free to substitute sugar for the sweetener.

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs, large
  • 1 Tbsp “Splenda” or equivalent sweetener.
  • 1/2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract.

Preheat a skillet over low heat.

In a small bowl combine the ingredients.  Beat with a fork or wisk until well mixed.  It’s important to make sure it’s well mixed.  Any unmixed cocoa will be gritting and bitter in the final product.

Oil the skillet (I use a cooking spray) then pour the egg mix into the skillet.  Tilt the skillet in all directions until the egg mix is spread thin.

Cook until the top of the egg mix starts to solidify.

with a thin but wide spatula starting at one edge of the eggs start rolling it.  Roll until you reach the other end.

Cook a minute or two, turning once or twice to let it finish cooking through.

Transfer to a plate and enjoy.

 

The Kinmar: a new cover and description

I recently updated the cover art and the description for my fantasy novelette “The Kinmar”, part of my Knights of Aerioch series. (As of this writing, it still hasn’t worked its way through Amazon’s system.)

I have been told that the purpose of the cover is to cue genre, not to illustrate the book.  The cover for this needs to say “fantasy” which this new cover does far better than the old one:

kinmar v2 web.jpg

Likewise the old description of the story was weak.  So we have a new one.

Knight partners Kreg and Kaila cannot allow raiders to plunder the land unchallenged, even when they find themselves far afield without time to seek reinforcements.

Heedless of the risk they pursue, only to be ambushed not by human raiders, but by a band of kinmar, half-beast half-human creations left over from the Changeling War.

Kaila must leave behind the gravely wounded Kreg, hidden. His only hope of survival is for her to draw away the remaining beasts, a daunting and perilous task. Moreover, can Kreg stand to let his love face death without him?”

The book remains available on Kindle for $2.99 or free to read on Kindle Unlimited.  When I have enough shorts in this series I hope to collect them into a paperback but we’re not there yet.

Others in the series include:

$4.99 in Kindle Store, Free to read in Kindle Unlimited, $14.99 in Paperback

Pulled into an alternate world mired in the middle ages, Kreg finds allies in Kaila, a rough swordmistress, and her wizardly father. He’s also found their foes – an unending horde pouring forth from the small nation next door.

Now, he’s in a race against time to find the true source, before everything he cares about ends in fire and death!


Always $0.99 in Kindle Store, Free to read in Kindle Unlimited.


Baroness Talisa leads the last few surviving members of her household through the mountains in the dead of winter, fleeing the changeling hordes that have destroyed the kingdom. In that world of white and gray she stumbles on an oasis of green, a garden, sacred to Treva, goddess of the wild things of the world. There, Talisa encounters the enigmatic guardian of the place who possesses great and mysterious magical power and who claims Talisa’s life as forfeit for trespassing in Treva’s Garden.

 

Time for some Thrilling Heroics

As a reader I’ll forgive a lot if you give me some thrilling heroics in your story.  Doesn’t matter if it’s a book, a TV show, a play, or an audio presentation.  Give me excitement.  Give me derring-do.  Give me reason to cheer.

tenor.gif

Add in a love story, and you’ve got me hooked.

Sure, you don’t need to have fast-paced heroism, and clear heroes and clear villains, to involve me in a story.  But, to be honest, it’s just easier to bring me in with that kind of story.  Give me someone to root for, someone to boo, a threat faced, a challenge overcome, and I’m happy.

Does this mean that you can skimp on deep character development or involved world building.  Eh.  Not really.

The key there is thrilling heroics.  They can’t be thrilling if I don’t care about the hero, about those threatened, even bystanders along the way.  They can’t be thrilling if I don’t believe the hero, and the villain, would act the way they do.  You can get away with less depth in lesser characters because by definition they don’t do much and we only need enough to do.  If the cab driver is just taking Our Hero from the airport to the hotel we don’t need to know that he washed out of law school, went on a month long bender that broke him up with his fiance and ended up in rehab before finally starting to put his life together and getting a job driving taxi (at least he’d never had a DUI even while drunk out of his mind).  But we have to believe that Our Hero is going to charge through machine gun fire into a burning building for someone he hardly even knows.  So you’ve got to have your character developed enough that when that happens we believe it.

Likewise with world building.  I’ve got to believe the threat.  And I’ve got to believe the actions available to the character.  It can be as simple as a modern cell phone.

A good example of that is the series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  In a group devoted to discussing the series someone made the comment that it was strange that Buffy and her friends (collectively known as the “Scoobies”) didn’t use cell phones to keep in touch and coordinate their actions.  However, when the series was made, particularly the first few seasons, cell phones were still high end items and not in common usage.  I didn’t have my own cell phone until the third season was out.

So if your characters have cell phones (which here is a stand-in for whatever bit of worldbuilding might affect the plot) then either have your characters use them when appropriate or give them a good reason not to.

So, develop your character.  Develop your world.  Hell, put in a “message” if that’s what you want.  But wrap it up in some thing for me to care about.

And if you succeed in that wrapper, your prose can limp a little.  I can let the occasional lapse in other aspects pass.  I’ve done it before.  I can do it for you.

So give me some thrilling heroics.

And if you can throw in a love story.  That’s good too.

And if you give me that, well, that’s the kind of thing that gets me to give you money in return.

 

Blast from the Past: Home Defense Firearms

Normally I don’t like doing back to back “blasts from the past” but this subject came up on facebook and I thought it would be worthwhile bringing it forward.

When it comes to home defense, a strong argument can be made that the best, the absolute best, weapon for defense against a home invasion is a compact semi-automatic rifle with certain, particular features.

Despite what Hollywood would have you believe, criminals often continue to function after being shot, often after being shot several times. “The dead man’s ten seconds” is a phenomenon well and long known (the phrase comes from the Civil War). The criminal may be effectively dead from the first shot, but they still have the ability to do a great deal of harm before they’re stopped. Thus, it may take multiple shots to stop them. Maybe they’ll spend their entire “dead man’s ten seconds” staring down at the hole in their chest.” Maybe it’s easy for you to bet other people’s lives that that’s how it will go down but maybe instead they’ll use that ten seconds to hurt or kill the homeowner unless distracted by, oh, other holes being put in their body from repeat shots until they do stop.

We have repeated reports of people in military theaters shooting an individual multiple times and having them continue to fight.

And that’s not even counting that robberies are often committed by more than one person. Again, local news reports suggest that the majority of home invasions involve multiple attackers.

Now, maybe in the “average” it’s over after only a couple of shots. But one can drown in a stream that “averages” 6 inches deep if one happens to step in a hole that’s 8′ deep (the rest of the stream only being 4″ or so, so the “average” comes to 6″). But multiple attackers requiring multiple shots each to put down is one of the scenarios a “civilian” may face, and this without a partner, without backup on call, with just what they can grab ready to hand.

In high stress and fear situations human beings have certain common issues. One is that fine motor skills go to hell. Simply working the action of a rifle or handgun can become a thing of fumbling when one is in fear for ones life (a necessary condition of use of lethal force in all jurisdictions in the US). Much better a simple action of “aim, pull trigger, aim, pull trigger”. Thus, semi-automatic. (Police and civilian firearms trainer and recognized expert witness on firearms matters discusses the effects of fear on ones shooting ability in his book Stressfire among others.)

When an attack comes, you can’t be sure that everyone in your household is all together. You may, for example, have to go get the kids. This doesn’t involve hunting the “bad guys.” I don’t recommend that at all. Get your family together and defend them if the bad guys come to you, but “get your family together” may require some moving around. Now, when you’re moving around, you may have to do things like open doors or work light switches. Or maybe (it’s dark, say, and this occurred after everyone was in bed) you need one hand free to hold a flashlight. Maybe you have a light mounted on your rifle but, well, you’re looking for your kids. It would be good to have a light you can shine on things without pointing your gun at them, don’t you think? (First rule of safe gun handling is treat any gun with the respect due a loaded gun but the second rule is “never point a gun at anything you’re not willing to destroy.” What that means regarding using a light mounted on your firearm to look for family members is left as an exercise for the student.) A “pistol grip” simply makes it easier to handle and keep control of the rifle in such circumstances. Also, a more “compact” design is easier to maneuver down hallways, through doors, and the like.

The attack happens at night? When you fire the muzzle flash blooms in front of you, temporarily blinding you. Who knows what can happen in the couple of seconds it takes your eyesight to recover? A flash suppressor/hider doesn’t actually suppress or hide the flash. It diverts it to the side where it interferes less with your vision allowing you to keep eyes on target allowing you to assess whether the attacker had been stopped or if you need to keep shooting, and if you do need to keep shooting you can aim rather than fire blindly (literally) and trust to luck.

A rifle is easier to aim accurately than any handgun. A centerfire rifle has more stopping power than any handgun.

Now, maybe you’re not the one available to grab the rifle.  Maybe it’s your wife (or husband if you’re a woman reading this–or whatever if you’re in a non-traditional relationship.  I won’t judge) who’s smaller than you (or larger).  Or maybe you sometimes use the rifle out in the cold while wearing heavy, thick clothing and sometimes when its warmer so you don’t have so much heavy clothes on.  A stock that can be adjusted for length helps size the rifle for easy, comfortable, accurate shooting.

Now note what I’ve just described: a compact rifle with a pistol grip, “large” capacity magazine (actually “standard” capacity since that’s what these rifles are designed for), flash hider, adjustable stock, and possibly a rail to which a light can be attached. While there’s no “shoulder thing that goes up” (Carolyn McCarthy can never be sufficiently mocked for that) what I’ve just described is an “assault weapon” per the media and folk like the Brady Campaign. (Not an “assault rifle” as defined by the military since that definition calls for fully automatic capability.)

It also happens to describe the best tool for defending your family against one of the between 4 and 40 thousand home invasions that occur every year.

How many of those 4 to 40 thousand families, many with children, are you willing to sacrifice?

Blast from the past: Stories should be fun to read

Back when I was in the Air Force, I found a book in the base book store by a guy of the name of “Dray Prescott”. The book was titled “Beasts of Antares.” Dray Prescott was actually the protagonist, the story was told first person, “As Told To” Alan Burt Akers who I much later learned was a pseudonym for the late Kenneth Bulmer.

I suppose it wasn’t “great literature” but it was fun, it had a moral hero whose primary motivation was devotion to his family (he gets thrown about the world by forces beyond his control and given tasks to complete–and complete them he does since that’s the only way he’s allowed to return back to wife and family), an effort to end slavery on his adopted world, and unite the “civilized” portion of the world to prepare to stave off a potentially civilization-destroying invasion that’s on the way.

Dray was a sailor from late 19th Century Earth, transported to the world of Kregan, around the double star system of Antares making this a tale in the “sword and planet” mold pioneered by Edgar Rice Burroughs and others.

Dray gets caught in a complicated rivalry between two forces, both nominally forces for “good”, the Savanti (humans with some advanced capabilities mixed with sword-swinging adventures) and the Everonye or “Star Lords” who are something else.

The “diffs” that populate Kregen are often little more than humans with an animal head or an extra pair of arms and given to being little more than “racial stereotypes” might make purists cringe. Still, when Bulmer pulled one of the various “diffs” out of the background and made them a character of significance the main characters often learned that there was more to them than just the stereotype of their race.

Although the science is dubious at best, with birds and related animals large enough to carry humans in flight and mixes of minerals that can be used to create anti-gravity airships, other aspects of the story show a remarkable degree of research and thought.

Beasts of Antares, my first exposure to the series, was the 23rd of 38 books that were originally released in the US. (Books originally released in Germany carried the series to 52 volumes.) I bought every book from #23 through to the end and, a few years ago, made a point of completing my collection with the US released versions. I learned at the time that a web site had been releasing ebooks of the later volumes in English but had gone defunct.

Well, just recently I discovered that most of the series (through volume 45) has been released in electronic and paper format. They had plans to do the rest but apparently that’s not happening

So, I have the first “cycle”, starting with volume 1, “Transit to Scorpio” on my iPod Touch and am thoroughly enjoying it.


It all starts here: