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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Flash: The Bleue Toscano Eggs of Power

Image Courtesy of alexisdcat FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“You’re late. Where are you?” Drake looked around trying to see his meetup, feigning a casual lean against the no-parking pole buried in the cement sidewalk. Everything he wore, from the sandals to the perfect white T-shirt, screamed just an ordinary day, just an ordinary person, no need to look here.

He hoped any pedestrians nearby bought the spell he was weaving. He wanted everyone to live through today including himself, though the flood of cars being diverted down the quiet street due to construction on a major artery, did not bode well.

“Look up,” crackled a sultry static-disrupted reply.

“Why…” Drake glanced up. “Oh hell and…,” slipped out before the cell phone went dead in his right hand. Drake straighten up and took a couple steps back, closer to the building.

Slowly descending from the sky was a vision of masculine superhero excellence, red cape rippling in the steady wind funneling between the urban buildings, black skin gleaming nearly blue perfectly set off by his cream and red suit. People on the crowded sidewalk walked faster in directions away from the place the six foot eight inch mountain of muscles came to hover, placing his invulnerable body protectively between Drake and the street filled with civilians. “Viper.” Power Fist’s deep resonating voice declared.

“Captain Perfect.” Drake stared past the spandex-covered obstacle, so much planning just shot to hell. The building he intended to enter once his contracted backup arrived irksomely was beyond his reach on the other side of the street. Dozens of pedestrians were taking shelter from the possible fight within the stone edifice, while equal numbers of more experienced urbanites were streaming out. Building fell down when superheroes of Power Fist’s strength levels were involved. A two-block distance provided the best protection.

“That’s not my name,” growled the hero.

Overlapping with the hero’s voice was another, recently learned and delightfully sultry voice saying in Drake’s right ear, “I’m going in now. Keep him busy.”

Long familiar with the light tingle of magic, Drake did not react. Over Power Fists shoulder he watched a raven-tressed college student snap a picture of the superhero with her cellphone, waving his direction a second before adjusting her backpack and entering his target building. Lydia? What was she … no, when the woman pulled the door open she turned in profile. Those were definitely not Lydia’s tits. Drake was fairly confident the Ice Queen just slipped into the building.

“Then what is your name?” Drake’s golden eyes snapped to the hero’s brown ones. “Shall I look it up on the registration database?” He mimed touching his cell phone. “Oh, wait. Your name doesn’t show up, sell-out.”

“Neither does yours Viper.”

“Of course not, I’m not Powered.” Drake took a few step further down the street, away from where he really wanted to go. He would have to trust Ice Queen’s reasonably priced services. “Nor am I American, you twat.”

Power Fist followed without shifting his body, continuing to hover a few inches off the ground in the stupid pirouette-passé position flyers use. “Where are you going Viper?”

“Wherever I want. It’s still a free country, or so you colonists say. Though all those lovely lists of yours may prove you are much better at tyranny than any Crown.” Drake stopped at the end of the block and turned to completely face Power Fist again. He wanted to see his hireling exit if possible. “How do you sleep at night knowing your government publicly endangers hundreds of Powers by publishing their birth names on the internet? It’s almost like they want public lynchings.”

“All duly registered Powers willing to undergo training and work with the government and within the law are allowed anonymity for the protection of themselves and their family.”

“How beautifully rote. Was that spiel part of your training?” Drake sneered.

“Duck in three.” Came the voice Drake could hear but not his opponent.

He closed on Power Fists, his cell phone still grasped in his hand. The hero lowered himself to the ground, bracing for an attack. An attack which was only a whisper Power Fist had to bend forward to completely hear. Drake voice dripped with vitriol. “How long do you think *Two* they will let you live free? How *One*long will it take for all Powers to be slaves?”

*Now*

Behind them, the side of the building exploded into the clear street. A concrete molding stripped from between the first and second floors flew at Power Fists back, shattering around him, leaving Drake unaffected in the lee of the hero’s braced, invulnerable body. Not even Drake’s sandal covered feet were cut.

Power Fist head twisted around to look at the fiery destruction behind him. “What did you do?”

“I. I did nothing.” Drake took a step back from the agitated hero. “All I was doing was walking down a street, talking with you.”

Turning back, Power Fist stared daggers. If his eyes could kill, Drake would be dead. “You did something Viper. You always do.”

“Would you believe I am one of the good guys?” Drake half-smiled.

“Not in a thousand years.”

“Well, then I suppose I don’t need to remind you, there are a lot of people needing rescuing right now.”

Power Fists fists glowed red as he clenched them. His teeth ground and every muscle of his body tensed to leap. Then he turned around and flew toward the bleeding people who had taken shelter within the destroyed building.

The Greek walked away whistling a tune most people know as Macedonia.

***

“Two of the three Bleue Toscano Eggs of Power retrieved and the third neutralized per contract.” The Ice Queen passed Drake a wooden box, intricately carved with dozens of designs, as she entered the mid-priced hotel room they eventually agreed to meet in. It took over a month, several states, and one embassy appeal for Drake to ditch the surveillance assigned him after the blast. “Try to keep them separate from now on.”

“It shouldn’t be difficult with the third destroyed.” Drake opened the box, verifying the two Faberge-style enameled eggs cushioned within the case. The magic shimmered the air, carrying the scent of burnt caramel and a taste of clover honey in warm milk.

The wheat blonde, the black wig long disposed of, sat primly on the bed of the modest-sized hotel room, crossing her nylon-covered legs which barely reached the floor. For once Drake was dealing with someone shorter than him; being just shy of five and a half feet in this day and age only was an advantage in that most people underestimated him. They likely did the same with the five foot nothing beauty in front of him. “Who said anything about it being destroyed?”

“It survived?”

She smiled, her blue eyes dancing. “All I did was crack the outer shell to leak some of the pent up energy to move it safely. The inner shell hardened within seconds.”

“So where is it?” Drake closed box, dancing a finger around one of the designs, completing the protections. No one would be able to open the box but him. He set it aside on the empty luggage rack.

“Not here. “ Laughing, she leaned back on the bed, bracing herself with her arms. Her laugh was much younger than her staid navy business suit indicated. Shocked, Drake moved her age down from the late-twenties he had pegged her at based on her street history and reputation. “I am not stupid enough to put those three Eggs within a mile of each other where they can form a Tierce Set. Some collectors are idiots.”

“So where is the third?” Drake walked over to where woman arched on the bed, her blouse primly hiding flesh which the business jacket advertised in a wide gap to accommodate her generous breasts. He lightly tapped her crossed legs with his jean clad one and she unconsciously dropped one of the legs providing him room to step between them and hover over her. “Hmmm?”

She looked up, leaning her head back because of his closeness, looking more aroused than intimidated. Her voice dropped from sultry to pure sex. “Safe.”

He leaned forward, placing his hands either side of hers not touching her bare hands, his lips hovering over hers. “How much?”

She named a number and he jerked back.

“Gadsdamn, that’s ten times…”

“…what the contract clause which you turned down specified.” She interrupted, standing and walking over the curtains while she talked. The woman looked coltishly over her shoulder before moving the curtain rod to block out the late afternoon sun. “The clause amount was based on risk. Risk of non-success. Well, success has been achieved.”

“Fair enough, but I am not in this one for profit.” Drake moved to the one chair of the room and sat down, raising his feet to the bed, blocking her by the curtains. “The first contract already drained the budget.”

“Well, then, since I took the risk. I get the benefit. I’ve been needing a small, untraceable power source.” The Ice Queen climbed into the middle of the bed this time, pretty much the only way to get by him in the small room. The slit in her skirt displaying the top her stockings before she tucked her legs under her. Strained buttons because of the tilted position threatened to pop until she unbuttoned her blazer. “I assume we have met your orders?”

“They would have liked it to have less of an … imprint.”

“They should be grateful no one was killed and a twenty-mile hole wasn’t carved into the planet. The eggs were sparkling blue AND the enamel had turned deep purple by the time I got there. Maybe two, maybe three minutes before we had one large empty grave blamed on the Powers.”

Drake raised his eyebrows. “And you controlled that?”

“I got mad skills.”

“Humph,” he grunted. “That I agree with; the cell phone trick is intriguing.” He dropped his feet to the floor and switched seating locations to the edge of the bed.

She tilted her head sideways. “It's no big thing if one understands technology.”

“A failing old age inflicts on one.” Drake danced his hand over her leg.

“And just how old are you Maionios?”

Drake’s hand stilled a second before continuing to softly stroke the girl’s leg. “Your researchers are exceptional.”

“My Gremlins have mad skills too.”

His golden eyes bore into her clear blue one, squeezing her calf lightly. “Real gremlins?”

“Not imported ones if that is what you are asking solider.”

“Not exactly but it will do.” Drake moved closer.

The blond scooted back until she was against the headboard. “So, what made you decide to do your three-year early.”

Taking the hint, Drake backed up a bit, pulling his legs and sitting Indian style on the mattress. Their knees bumped despite their mutual short statures. He didn’t move further back, and she did not move off the bed. “With Lydia deciding to actually serve out her most recent sentence, something about needing a rest to work out stuff which I never know is a good or bad thing that that woman, I found myself at loose ends and decided to clear the requirement off the slate. Have you started thinking about your mandatory yet?”

“With my lifestyle, I really don’t think I need to worry about it.” She shook her head. “The chances of me hitting sixty are slim to none.”

Drake leaned forward to put his hand on her knee. “What a sad thought.”

“Not really, I just live life really large.” She gently moved his hand to the edge of the skirt’s fabric.

“Do you now.” He leaned further in.

Grabbing his black hair, she pulled him the rest of the way in. “Yes.” Their lips met sending the massive mutual electric shock two world-class mages create when touching skin to skin. Her energy, pure, raw, nearly all unfocused but with the infinite-looking-into-the-abyss signature of a dimensional gate specialist. He knew she was experiencing his powerful, well-harnessed energy in its chaotic swirl of mass and energy transmutation. Adjusting mass-energy had a number of interesting consequences. Including subtly shifting the energy within solid fibers temporarily to the excitement of gas and dropping the materials back down the scale upon the room’s chair completely reformed, an effect which appeared to many like teleportation of non-living materials and took years to master to reassemble with all the atoms back in the correct order.

A skill perfect for his needs of the moment; Drake raised his hands up to the newly bared breasts.

“Whoa.” The Ice Queen pulled back from the kiss and a moment later moaned “Oh,” as his freed lips found her nipples. Her ability with words deteriorated from there. A thousand years’ experience being used on a teenager, and after the opening kiss Drake was positive the girl was this country's adult legal age for sex but not for drinking, will do that to a female.

Damn he did like teaching.

Much later he traced the ugly spell-tattoo inked into her porcelain white skin. “Would you be interested in learning about clear tattoos?” He dropped a kiss on the death spell before leveraging himself to see her face.

The dreamy look dissolved a bit. “In exchange for what?”

“Well, now my mercenary lover, how about that technology spell?” He smiled, his teeth showing.

“Sounds fair. Gremlin?”

Drake jerked up in surprise. “We are being watched?”

“Always.” She crawled over the bed toward their clothes. Looking over her shoulder to see him admiring the handprints he perpetrated on her expansive ass, she shrugged. “Well, at least I am.”

“I guess I will need to give a better performance next time.”

“The Gremlins don’t really notice these things unless snacks are required.” The pile of clothes vibrated until she pulled her cell phone out. “Yep, they agree. The contract will print on the hotel’s printer as we walk out, which we need to do soon. Your tail is getting close. And you rated the movie butter popcorn.”

“I shook my tail two days ago.”

“The obvious one. We got rid of the other about an hour before you got here, all part of the meetup service. I like to go above and beyond.”

“I had the embassy remove the obvious one.”

“You are behind on the times old man.” She sent him a look of pity as she picked up her brassiere. “If you are going to be soldiering, you need to get more with what the tech of this world can do.”

Drake, recorded in myth as Drakon Maionios, now known by the codename of Viper in many modern government databases, frowned while the teenage mage dressed. When she passed him his pants, he stated, “Maybe we should expand that contract a bit.”

Her face lit up. “I know the perfect restaurant for the discussion, if you are paying.”

(words 2,491 – first published July 31, 2016)

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Other Cool Blogs: James Maxey January 7, 2011


Image courtesy of Unsplash photographer Jilbert Ebrahimi; quote from James Maxey. Combined by Erin Penn 2016.

Somethings just hit home too perfectly. When I read this quote in James Maxey's blog Five Writing Mantras That Bear Repeating, I had to make a picture of it to remind me the importance of writing. Because it is worth repeating. Writing requires one to write. 

Go to his blog to find out his unique spin on this topic.

WRITING EXERCISE: Write 500 words today. Blog post, book review, flash, diary entry ... just write something.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Writing Exercise: Dialogue and Scene

Image Courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Dialogue and Scene

A strange phenomenon I have discovered while editing is writers usually have scene and dialogue well integrated for the first few chapters of a manuscript, but after a while the integration fails, switching to scene description and talking heads like they were writing a screenplay. When writing the first pass, such weaknesses are acceptable, but only if the author goes back and corrects them. Many self-published book glaringly suffer from this problem. The first step is recognizing it is an issue, unless you are writing a screenplay, and the second step is fixing the situation.

Below is a generic example of the phenomenon.

WRITING EXERCISE: Try to blend the two, or go through your present WIP (work-in-progress) and see if you have a scene or two suffering from this failing and adjust. If you fix the below, please post your version to the comment section.

Don't read other people's versions until you do your own.


*****

The Student Union’s vaulted ceiling crisscrossed with ancient beams, smoke-darkened from hundreds of fires before central heat was installed. The marble floor was newer, replaced in the Roaring Twenties when the college was flush with donations, but was showing wear tracks along the paths most often used by students treading the maze of comfortable, but disintegrating furniture, begged, borrowed, stolen, and abandoned by their predecessors.

Rozetta’s and Clifford’s favorite sofa was a food-stained, soda-stained, sweat-stained, and don’t-ask-stained lump from the seventies that started life most likely a bright mint green. At least, when the guaranteed to clean anything fabric cleanser had been applied to one arm as a test, that was the intense color returned.

A lead-glass project from a forgotten art student filled the center window, breaking rainbows across the room. Every year Alpha Sigma Sigma would sacrifice their pledge class to climb a 30-foot ladder to clean the fifty some prisms and glass animals. Roz moved her hand back and forth through one of the rainbows residing mid-air over her accounting book.

“You still don’t get quantity variance.” Cifford admonished. “Finals are tomorrow.”

“If I haven’t got it by now, I am not going to.” Roz replied.

“You could at least try.”

Roz shrugged. “I tried and tried and tried. At least with the homeworks, projects, pop quizzes and mid-terms, the worst grade I can get is a C+ according to the rubric the teacher handed out … and that is if I get a zero on the final. And I am not going to get a zero.”

“So did you calculate my grade yet, my lady luck?”

She said, “18% of the grade. Best case, with a 100, is a B+, worse with a zero is a C-. Zero means losing your scholarship and having to drop out.”

“It was that damned paper. Who puts a paper in an accounting course?”

“Told you just follow the rubric, but no, you missed half the required points.”

“Thought the teacher would let me slide,” he said. “She likes me.”

Roz laughed. “Ms. Catcher, letting someone slide?”

“Hey, I get lucky sometimes.” He wiggled his eyebrows. “Like tonight, after you understand quantity variance.”

“How about before I understand quantity variance, but after pizza. I’m buying.”

“Deal.”

The two packed up their books and left the Union and rainbows behind.

(words 389 - first publication 2/12/2015; republished in new blog format 7/26/2016)

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Flash: Daisies are Happy Things

Image courtesy of Gualberto107 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The daisies were wilting.

I stared at the bundle.

I guess I should put them in water, but that means I will see them again. And think about it.

On the other hand, what did the daisies do? Is it fair to them? I mean they died for this bouquet.

But they had died before he bought them. It’s not like he grew them in his own garden for me and cut them just to bring them here. They had to be store bought.

I felt sorry for the daisies. Roses I would have trashed in an instant. I don’t know why there is a difference but there is.

I really can’t stand looking at them any longer.

I grab the handful and stalk out my door. Maybe if I drop them in Mrs. Lin’s composting pile I won’t feel guilty. I pick up the little compost bucket I keep outside my door, just to make the trip look more legitimate, and start walking down the street.

Passing the bus stop, I see Jeremy. He is huddled under all-weather shade our neighborhood association erected for riders. I expect someone will be calling the police soon to run him off again. He liked hanging around here because our neighborhood backed up against a small woods overrun with blueberry bushes and raspberry thorns; the location gave him a safe place to sleep as well as food part of the year since only the truly determined made their way through those brambles.

Plus me and Mrs. Lin, being single, often had extra food about to go bad we would toss his way when we could. It kept him alive, if not healthy.

“Hey Jeremy.”

He looked up from where he was wilting as badly as the daisies because of the late afternoon heat. “Chris, how is it going?”

“Weirdly.” I nodded. “Yep, weird. Hey, would you like some daisies to sell?” I offer him the bundle. When Mrs. Lin trimmed her forest, she always gave him some to make a couple bucks so no one would think it strange for him to have flowers out of the blue in time for the evening rush.

“They’re nice, don’t cha want to keep them?” he asked, taking them.

“They are part of the weirdness. But you sell them good. Daisies are happy things.” I turn away to continue to Mrs. Lin’s place.

(words 397 - first published 7/24/2016)

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Geeking Science: SETI


Image Courtesy of njaj at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Anybody out there?

At ConCarolinas 2016 I had the pleasure of being on five science panels. I did a TON of research to make certain I was ready to roll on the panels and I think everyone, audience and panelists, had a really good time. For "50 Years of SEIT, Where is Everyone?" I shared a panel with Stephen Euinn Cobb, Dr. Ben Davis, and DL Leonine. (SEIT - Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligent Life)

The blurb for the panel read

"A formal search for extraterrestrial intelligence has been in place for 50 years without meaningful result. Are we alone in the universe? And if we aren't alone, then why haven't we heard from anyone else?"
After finding over 1,000 new planets in 2016 alone and having proof of 21 earth-ish size planets in the life zone as we understand it, the questions are legitimate. [(NASA'S Kepler]

What the panelists decided is we are looking in the wrong places for the last 50 years. When we initially started looking radio waves were the BOMB. Everything ran to radio and we knew, WE KNEW, any advance civilization would have an ever-increasing radio footprint spreading out from its home planet. Communication between the native planet and space stations would be by radio. Tons and tons of radio waves would be going out into space randomly once a civilization reached its industrial age and so long as the civilization continued to exist this situation would continue.

The assumption has proven false.

Less than 50 years since we started looking and Earth's the use of powerful radio waves peaked, then started falling. We have gone wireless, which does mean radio waves - but we have dropped the strength drastically. Most waves don't make it 100 miles let alone out of the atmosphere. All they have to do is get to the nearest cell tower and go underground. We narrow-focus everything sent to space to save energy, so little leaks beyond Earth's slowly quieting electronic footprint.

Also in the mix, if we use Earthlings as an example of what might be happening to other sentients, is how far radio waves travel before disappearing in the background noise of space. Which is "not far". Twenty light years out, and unless the neighbors (only 110 stars in 53 systems, don't know how many planets, yet) directed a focused radio at us, we would hear nothing. [How far] [Nearest Stars]


I know I published about LIGO in June where we hear the merging of black holes at the edge of the universe from over a billion years ago, but that phenomenon was a 7 millisecond long and used up (converted from mass direct to energy) the equivalent mass of three suns. Somehow I don't see anyone doing this energy output on a sustained basis. We got lucky because we were listening for the gravity waves during a time when the results of the activity crossed our sphere in space. We started listening in 2002 (14 years ago). [Gravitational Waves]


Maybe we will get lucky again. This time with SEIT. Of course to have the luck work the following will need to happen:
  1. We LISTEN.
  2. We listen in a variety of mediums beyond radio waves.
  3. We narrow the search to where we think life might be. (This does mean life needs to match our expectations, but the sky is HUGE. We need limits to create a cost-effective search.)
  4. The civilization needs to have sent out the message at a particular time in the past and it needs to arrive at our point in space, both physically and temporarily since Earth moves through space, while we are listening.
I think we will eventually hear something. Maybe not this century and 150 years is an exhausting long time to listen for a maybe chance of a whisper. Is the search worth it?

Depends on what else we find looking for extra-terrestrial intellect life. So far we discovered pulsars and gathered a ton of data we are now using to look for planets. Scientists don't waste data.

I think the most important aspect of SEIT is hope. Hope we might have friends someday when we finish outgrowing our home planet. 


*****
Bibliography

"Gravitational Waves Detected 100 Years After Einstein's Prediction." 2016 February 11. Downloaded 6/28/2016 from https://www.ligo.caltech.edu/news/ligo20160211.


"How Far Have Our Radio Signals Traveled From Earth?" July 26, 2011. Downloaded 6/28/2016 from http://zidbits.com/2011/07/how-far-have-radio-signals-traveled-from-earth/.

"NASA's Kepler Mission Announces Largest Collection of Planets Ever Discovered." NASA news release 16-51, May 10, 2016. Downloaded 6/28/2016 from https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasas-kepler-mission-announces-largest-collection-of-planets-ever-discovered.

"The Nearest Stars to Earth (Infographic)." Tate, Karl. December 19, 2012. Downloaded 6/28/2016 from http://www.space.com/18964-the-nearest-stars-to-earth-infographic.html

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Author Spotlight: Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

Book Cover from Amazon

In the mood for Romantic Science Fiction with the feel of Victorian England? Then head on over to Sharon Lee and Steve Miller's Liad Universe where everyone is polite and most people end up with a happily-ever-after. The stories combine action and love stories with spaceships and aliens (you have to meet the Turtles and their version of Space Travel!). The writing team has been together since the 1980's and work best in the long form. They have a lot of short stories out as well, and I have read most of them.

One of their biggest challenges in making a living through writing has been publishers. But it seems like they finally found a good home with Baen and are producing at the volume level they had always wanted to. I do prefer their earlier manuscripts where the editing trimmed them down to a crisp pace. Their more recent manuscripts follow the current "vogue" of wide-ranging stories with multiple story lines; more of an epic fantasy feel for their new century stories rather than the old century of space opera. It takes a while to get up-to-speed if you haven't read the previous books. Some of the recent books work as stand-alones and others do not.

They have other universes they have created and one needs to be careful not to go down those rabbit holes unless you really want to read the material. I found the first book of the Fey Duology book off-putting. I expected another sweet romance, and this is anything but. But with over a dozen novels and scores of short stories (get the Omnibuses, they are cheaper) you can live in the Liad Universe for some time.

So if you see Liad Universe on the cover, you are all good. If you see anything else, double-check by reading the Amazon teaser to make certain the format is to your taste.

You can follow them through their multiple websites:

Sharon Lee's website - http://sharonleewriter.com/

Clan Korval's (from the Liaden Universe) - http://korval.com/

The Splinter Universe, a genre fiction site where some of their unpublished works are available - http://splinteruniverse.com

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Flash: No more cheeseburgers

Image courtesy of Mister GC at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

"Mom, it’s the end of the world!” Gilbert charged into the house, slamming doors behind him, shedding books, backpack, papers, and electronics in his wake from his day of college classes.

His mother looked up at her teenage son from the oven where she just pulled out a sheet of baked French fries. “Of course it is.”

“No, I mean for real! It’s all over the news.”

“Uh-huh.” His mother nodded moving the fries to a serving platter. “Would you like a cheeseburger or hamburger?”

“Why is that even a question?” Gilbert put his hands on the back of a kitchen charge, shaking in his urgency. “A meteor is about to hit Earth!”

“Correction, the meteor will hit Earth in a little over nine months.” His mother tsk’ed. “Please do not exaggerate.”

Blinking at the calm his mother produced, entirely at odds from the explosion of opinions on campus when the news was released a couple hours ago, Gilbert shook his head before whining, “But the world is going to end.”

“But not today or tomorrow, and I am assuming you are hungry now.” His mother nodded to the sizzling burgers. “So tell me, cheese or no cheese.”

“Cheese, please.” Gilbert muttered weakly, pulling out the chair before sitting down. He planted his elbows on the table and buried his head in his hands.

After placing Swiss cheese slices on the ground meat patties and returning the cheese to the refrigerator, Heather brought over fries platter and ketchup. “Where is my kiss?”

Dropping his hands to the table, Gilbert kissed the cheek his mother presented.

“Much better. Now make yourself useful and get out the drinks.” Heather returned to the stove. “I’m your mother, not your waitress.”

“Yes mom.” Gilbert got up again and started setting the table for dinner. “I just don’t understand why you aren’t bothered. The news says there will be anarchy, looting, lawlessness.”

“Well it’s not going to happen in this house.” Heather said firmly. “People who do that are the stupid ones, and you and your sister are not stupid.”

Gilbert’s bushy eyebrows met in a frown while putting the glasses out. “I … what?”

“Oh, for the love of goodness.” Heather pulled the toasted buns from the oven and placed them on the table beside the lettuce leaves, onion slices, and tomatoes. “Anyone who goes the panicked mob route is just asking to die. The president already declared marshal law, and the National Guard has been deployed. She promised to bring on-line the draft for both men and women, and veterans should call in to the nearest post according to their last name.” Sliding the cheeseburger patties on a heated plate, Heather joined her son at the dinner table. “I got to call in at the gadawful hour of three a.m.”

Heather bowed her head and her son followed suit. “Dear Lord, during this time of trouble, please give our leadership the strength and wisdom they need. Give us the endurance and intelligence to be able to help them. Always remind us to look first to you for guidance.” Gilbert winced at the very pointed comment. “And bless this food unto our bodies. In your name, Amen.”

“Amen.” Gilbert echoed before grabbing a warmed bun. “So you are getting called up again?”

“What else did you expect?” Heather squirted some ketchup on her bottom bun, leaving the top of the bun on the serving platter since carbs were her biggest enemies in her ongoing battle of the bulge. “Though it’s likely only for the initial check-ins since hospitals will be a priority staffing issue.” His mother’s nursing career spanned three deployments overseas and half a decade stateside since she quit the army to raise her children after her civilian husband died of cardiac arrest.

“So I don’t even get to see you before it all ends.”

Heather pointed The Finger at her son. “Okay, stop that negativity right there. I raised you better than that. Heck, your father, bless his black heart, raised you better than that. What are the solutions?”

In the middle of biting into the burger when the question was asked, with mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, and meat juices dripping onto the plate, Gilbert chewed and swallowed before answering. He wasn't going to risk his ears getting boxed for talking with his mouth full. “The meteor is going to hit the Earth. It’s too big to move. The news says it’s nearly eight kilometers.”

“Try again, that is not a solution.” The military officer grilled her son.

“Whatever.” Gilbert picked up a fry and considered it, slipping into programming mode.  “Okay, there are three states to this equation. First we do nothing and continue as we are.”

His mother nodded. “With the minor change of controlling the anarchy and any idiots who use disruption to become petty dictators.”

“Scat, Dad would have loved this.” Gilbert’s dad taught high school history and ran the debate team most of his life, in between serving local political offices and as an adviser for state and military offices wherever they had been stationed.

“Focus.”

“All right, so option two is we try to move the rock and option three is we dig in and make an ark.” Everyone at the college figured the politicians didn’t release the news until they had the ark option all set up for their families and are already hiding underground.

“That is my conclusion as well.” After scooping some more onto her plate, his mother offered her son a half-filled platter. “More fries?”

Gilbert dumped the rest on his plate before smothering them in mayonnaise and ketchup. At nineteen, his appetite still hadn’t found a level between his track and his soccer scholarships and his continuing growth. Six foot would be in the rear view mirror in a few months, if he lived through the end of the world.

Heather steepled her fingers. “So the first step is control the lunacy and the second step is to direct our energies to humanity’s survival. Which option do you prefer?”

“I don’t see how we are going to move that rock, so I guess the ark is the best bet.”

“Hide instead of act.” Heather shook her head. “Well, half of humanity is conservative and half is action, which is how we survived so far. Diana takes more after me and you take more after your dad.”

Gilbert protested. “When action will accomplish nothing, using your brain is the best option. In fact it is always the best option - use the brain before acting. And in this case, the brain says a conservative reaction is best.”

Shaking her hand side to side, Heather responded. “Yes and no.”

“Right. So your turn.” Gilbert started on his second burger.

“Well, first we need to get everyone concentrating on the rock instead of panicking. We can go back to our petty bickering later, just like Africa did once Europe left. I think the U.N. is already working on that, though I expect some of the extremist groups to respond poorly.” Heather’s face hardened. “I also expect the kid gloves will come off and we will stop pussy-footing around with what is ‘humane’ and ‘civilized’ during this time.”

Gilbert smirked a moment, then took great delight and saying a word his mom constantly used on him for the last five years since she returned from overseas. “Focus.”

Heather's brown eyes sparkled and a wry grin crossed her face before she started speaking again. “The problem with the ark solution is the limited amount of what can be saved. Therefore moving that stupid rock into the sun or at least off orbit is the better option.”

“I realize most of humanity will still die, but that is the trade-off for the ark. It is the more viable solution.” Gilbert tucked the last of the burger in his mouth.

Heather stood up and began to pick up the empty dishes. “There will be no more cheeseburgers.”

“I know that mom, but it’s okay; I’m full.” Gilbert stood up to help her load the dishwasher.

“No, Gilly, what I mean is there will be no more cheeseburgers after the ark. The cows won’t fit.”

Gilbert froze, glass in hand. “No more cheeseburgers?”

“Yeah, even if you get chosen for the ark because of your brains, brawn, genes, and youth, and don’t get all big-head on me, but you would be a prime choice, but cows take up too much landscape to raise so there will be no more cheeseburgers or steak.”

“Well, fuck that. We need to move that rock.”

His mom smiled evilly. “Why don’t you get on internet and get your friends on it. SpaceX has a rocket going up in two days and needs number crunchers to figure out density programs for their sensors. They advertised the crowd sourcing just before you came home.”

(Words 1,478; first published 7/17/2016)

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Other Cool Blogs: Pictures

Image acquired without permission from (multiple) Facebook postings
(but does have icanhas.cheezburger.com in the image)

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Editing Rant: No just no

Oh geez no ... just ... no

John stopped dead in his tracks, and froze in place.

What is wrong with this sentence? Not counting the comma use.

(If I bang my head against the wall enough, will it stop hurting?)

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Flash: Head Bowed

Image Courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Icy sweat dripped down Vincente’s spine as he waited, head bowed before Ubel. He prayed the overlord would extend his left hand so Vincente could kiss the ruby thumb ring.

In public, everyone said Ubel was strict but fair. In places where whispers will not be repeated, Vincente had been told Ubel destroyed all who crossed or disappointed him.

The stone floor stole away heat from Vincente’s knee, where it braced him before the steps leading to the throne. He kept his eyes trained on the hem of Ubel’s black fur mantle. The supplicant could feel Ubel’s eyes bore into his back. The bastard’s fingertips no doubt were steepled as he considered Vincente’s report. How often had he seen others in this exact position and laughed internally at their foolishness, seeking mercy from someone with none?

He never mocked them, like some of the court did. Ubel tolerated no other assuming his power. Only he granted life or death, kindness or abuse.

At long last, the cloth in front of him shifted. He felt Ubel’s hand rest gently on his head. Vincente started to raise his head and hands so he could grasp his salvation, when his head was shove so hard it continued until it met the stone steps.

Before he could recover, Vincente felt a nailed boot pressing down between his shoulders. Standing facing his audience, grinding the cleats deep into Vincente’s back, Ubel asked, “What shall I do with this dog?”

(words 244- first published 4/14/2013; republished new blog format 7/10/2016)

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Other Cool Blogs: Magical Words June 16, 2016

Painting entitled: Woman in Prayer

Worldbuilding: Gods

Everywhere we look religious is steeped into our culture. How the days of the weeks play out, the days off, holidays, how people dress, quotes, country boundaries, and dozen of other expectations. To write a world without religion, whether horror, science fiction, or fantasy creates an unreal world.

I loved how steeped Babylon 5 was in religion: Stephen Franklin's Foundationism, Susan Ivanova's Judaism, the Mimbari government being lead partially by their priesthood, and G'Kar's fanaticism. Every character is on Bab 5 was driven partially by belief in something greater, including Londo's ties to his people. Without the religious overtones, Babylon 5 would have been the typical bland sci-fi we normally see. Instead it constantly was asking questions.

Magical word's Diana Pharaoh Francis covered the topic in "God-Fearing Woman". The list of questions to ask when creating a religion are especially important. I lightly touched on religion in the flash Joelie and Sarah's Last Day last month. Joelie is an ongoing character for me; I especially love the religion I created for him. The Tester is neither good or evil, benevolent or petty, but a smith shaping materials to be the best they can be - sometimes the hard hammer and sometimes the gentle hands.

WRITING EXERCISE:
Pick three characters from your present work-in-progress. Create one prayer for each they might say at the beginning or end of a day.

READING EXERCISE:
Think of your present read-in-progress. How does religion impact one of the characters? Does their beliefs drive any of their goals?

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Book Review: Legion: Skin Deep (Legion #2)


Book Cover from Amazon

BOOK BLURB ON AMAZON
Legion: Skin Deep by Brandon Sanderson

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson, Stephen Leeds is back in a new, double-length novella that Library Journal says has "the pulse of a thriller and the hook of a fascinating hero balancing on the edge of psychosis."

It's not his own genius that Stephen Leeds gets hired for. Clients want to tap into the imaginary experts that populate his mind—and it's getting a bit crowded in there.

Now Stephen and his internal team of "aspects" have been hired to track down a stolen corpse—but it's not the corpse that's important, it's what the corpse knows. The biotechnology company he worked for believes he encoded top-secret information in his DNA before he died, and if it falls into the wrong hands, that will mean disaster.

Meanwhile, Stephen's uneasy peace with his own hallucinations is beginning to fray at the edges, as he strives to understand how one of them could possibly have used Stephen's hand to shoot a real gun during the previous case. And some of those hallucinations think they know better than Stephen just how many aspects his mind should make room for. How long will he be able to hold himself together?


MY REVIEW
As good as Legion (#1), this sequel continues to follow Stephen Leeds through another mystery. Not certain if this can be called a fantasy, sci-fi, or mystery genre - most likely mystery. Has the feel of a fantasy from the main character talking to ghosts - or is it sci-fi with additional programming in his brain. I guess last one felt more fantasy because of the religious pictures and this one is more sci-fi because of the cellular storage.

Anyway, who cares about compartmentalizing genres - that is just crazy talk. Like trying to compartmentalizing learning into 47 different personalities.

Great story, again the mystery unfolds in such a way you feel you got all the information you needed to solve the mystery before the reveal happens. No cheating on secret evidence the character finds but doesn't share with the reader.

I would love more on this series, since I want a conclusion and a prequel and ... well everything more. Unfortunately this is one of the stories Mr. Sanderson fits in between his contracted (and paid for) books. Here's hoping he gets lots more plane rides where he can't use his laptop with his official work in progress.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Flash: Memory of a Lifetime

Image Courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Cheryl hummed happily as she unwrapped a cracker for April. Her baby immediately started working on it with her limited teeth, making a gummy mess.

The weekend had been wonderful, just her and her husband, with the added bonus of the children spending quality time with their uncle. Having breakfast out after picking the kids up was the perfect end to the perfect weekend, giving them time to be a family before jumping back into never-ending chores and work of a two-career household. These were the memories to last a lifetime.

The waitress finished taking Joe’s order and asked “Anything for the child?” she said nodding to Scott sitting neatly in his booster seat.

Cheryl smiled with parental pride at her oldest. “I think he is old enough to order his own breakfast.”

“Okay, little man, what would you like?”

“I want to devour the unborn.” Scott carefully enunciated and spaced words, his volume only slightly less than his normal four-year old tones.

Cheryl looked at the waitress mortified. Her cheeks flushed when she realized most of the diners had heard his request. The nearest two tables stopped eating and turned to stare at her family. No one could have misunderstood what he had said.

When looking for support, she discovered her husband had covered his mouth with his hands. His whole body was shaking and tears were escaping the sides of his eyes. Cheryl shot death towards him, until he calmed enough to remove his hand and translate. With only a slight gasp he said, “Eggs, he want eggs.”

The waitress nodded cautiously before asking the boy, “And how would you like them cooked?”

Proudly Scott said. “Shattered and beaten with the juice flowing forth.”

Joe’s grin widened until he saw his wife’s face. After rearranging his features into a sterner expression, the father relayed, “Scrambled but runny.”

The waitress scratched the order down. With a wince, she asked, “And what would you like to drink, little man?”

“Utter madness.”

Joe’s head tilted as he considered the request. “… aha, Scott, do you mean ‘Udder’?” He clearly pronounced d’s.

Scott nodded several times. “UD-DER madness.”

Turning to the waitress, Joe let her know, “He wants chocolate milk.”

The woman quickly retreated to the kitchen.

Cheryl hissed at Joe, “Your brother is NEVER to babysit again!”

(words 386 - first published 4/10/2013; republished new blog format 7/3/2016)