Saturday, December 28, 2013

17246--In Dark Places

At least some of us pay attention to the world around us.

When we do, many of us wonder what goes on in the minds of those who shun the light, those who wear the mask of humankind yet commit deeds deemed dark, violent, and just plain evil against others.  What makes those we call villains villainous?

Is it as simple as attachment?  Is it clinging to desire for things denied?  Not all who want go so far as to impose their will on others, though.  What pushes one person to violate the rights of another?  We've all heard it before.  The common experiences that drive these actions are fear, anger, hatred and suffering.  Fear itself is anticipatory of an experience.  Anger and hatred are indicators of the level of attachment placed on experiences.  Suffering is what remains, the scars of a traumatizing experience typically measured in terms of perceived intensity and endurance.  At its worst, suffering survived manifests as madness, scarring so severe on one's intangible essence of self that the resultant alterations can become utterly abhorrent.  Those whose selves have become so lost as to become a menace to themselves and those around them, may have no chance of recovery.

"Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad," said Prometheus (Longfellow, The Masque of Pandora).

To be cut from the cloth of Moriarty, Keyser Soze, Ozymandias, Morgan Le Fay, Shiwan Khan, Sauron or Emperor Palpatine, is to have found the path to wrangling the wills of others.  It was easily done because the will of others is insignificant next to people whose self-perceived greatness has set them beyond the laws and conventions of ordinary mortals.  Megalomania is a special form of madness where an easily understandable lust for greater power is coupled with genius enough to make it seem attainable.  From there, who knows how far one may try to run with it?

Penguin, on the other hand, does have distinctive personality traits.  His upbringing was that of a studious "mama's boy".  She's the one who pushed him to always carry the umbrella.  He's very intelligent, but also obsessive.  He has been portrayed as greedy, cunning, vengeful, social-climbing, approval-seeking.  His drives come from greed, obsession and insecurity.  Unlike many of Batman's foes, he's not emotionally disturbed or blatantly insane.  He is, however, determined not to be the impoverished, persecuted misfit he was as a child.

Lex Luthor's desire for greatness is certainly megalomania, but his usual entertainment of blissfully crushing the dreams of others (not to mention the occasional bare-handed strangulation) and toying with their tiny lives became overshadowed by his burning hatred for Superman.  Worse than having his spotlight stolen, suffering the humiliation of interference in his plans is more than Luthor is willing to endure.  His greatest goal is to see Superman dead, with impunity, by his hand.  Luthor is so dedicated to this end that he has even helped Superman against other villains to save Superman for himself.

Maybe that sounds crazy, but he's not the only one who'd go so far.  Stop me if you've heard this one...

Joker's stand-out feature isn't that he's a cunning mastermind or even the snappiest dresser (not to say he has anything short of killer fashion sense), but a mind driven to chaos.  Born from suffering and loss, his unbridled unpredictability is one of his greatest assets.  He wants to dance and Batman is the only dance partner he truly cares about.  The steps he takes to lead the way into madness are those he thinks are funny.  He doesn't just kill anyone available or steal shiny things.  He doesn't just spray acid and create mayhem for mayhem's sake.  He does it all for laughs.  How dark is the heart that sees every bruise, broken bone or murdered victim not as perpetrated evil, but as one more punchline in a neverending series of jokes?

Friday, December 27, 2013

17245--Do I need a dust jacket?

The question came up again about judging books by covers, this time even extending to the point of asking if an author should be judged by a book.

No, just…no. Cover art may have nothing to do with what's inside, especially from bigger publishing houses. Judge books by their writing. Authors, like anybody else, you have to know to know. You're seeing more of an author in their book than you are an actor or even a director in a film, but it's all still out of context. Roland Emmerich directed the “Stargate” film, for example, but doesn't believe in ancient alien astronauts. The TARDIS is more than just a blue police box.

A grant was granted and an exhaustive scientific study was done, proving for all time that there’s more stuff inside books. The covers are just wrappers. Just as eating the food inside a package gets you more than just examining the package, reading a book brings on an entirely different experience than simply studying its cover.

Likewise, I am more than animated skin.  Certainly, bigger on the inside.  Or smaller on the outside.  As you like.  Any of us grows over a dozen yards of digestive tract and then miles upon miles of circulatory vessels and neural tissue.

I do occasionally wrap it in a duster, but I never considered a dust jacket.  There's way too much on the inside to even consider that, even if it were all black or had really cool art.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Way of Things

I thought I was going to make it all the way through Festivus and Christmas, maybe even so far as into the next year, without a serious grievance.  Silly me.  Looks like I have a grievance to air after all.  Have you heard of Twitter?  Oh, good.

Out in the virtual world of social media, I've made a habit of mentioning users with whom I've enjoyed conversing or whom I've felt were otherwise worth recommending that people follow.  From what I have observed, it's a routine practice.  It seems as though it's part of being social: passing information about interesting content between users.  The people behind the curtain running Twitter say that's not what Twitter is for and that for me to continue such abuse of their system will result in the permanent suspension of my account.  I've been engaged in the practice for quite a while and really had no idea it was a bother.  I still don't see a problem with it, having received a multitude of grateful responses from other users who seemed to enjoy being a part of the whole networking aspect of the process.

Well, what do we know?

Apparently, that's not what Twitter is for.

I suppose it's still OK to retweet things.  "Retweet" made it into the dictionary, so I'd guess they don't want to torpedo that one.  "Mentioning" was in the dictionary long before even Twitter, so they'd have a hard time claiming that one.  That may be why they don't have the same feeling of attachment to it.

So...if you're a fellow twit, retweeting content is OK, just don't tell anyone who you've been talking with about it.  If you're with the NSA or any other part of the government's alphabet soup, you already know who we've all been talking with and don't care how we feel about you knowing so long as we don't tell anyone else what we all already know about what you've been doing because you want us to pretend it's a secret that we don't know so you can follow what we're up to without us knowing you're there.  It's OK, really.  We're posting in a public media forum.  We're sharing freely.  Hell, they used to be called "bulletin boards".  Sometimes we still call them "community forums".

They're about sharing.  I'm pretty sure that's what we're there to do.

Shows what I know.

One other thing I do know is that bitching about a problem is easy.  It doesn't accomplish as much as doing something about the problem.  So, since I prefer lighting candles to cursing darkness, below are the Twitter handles I'll no longer be sharing on Twitter, but still encourage people to follow if they're so inclined.  Some are writers, others are artists, and some are just people who like to chat or share things you might like to read.  None have been arranged in any particular order, nor have they done anything else special to be added to the list.

@amberrisme @Princess_Nadian @RahimaWarren @DARREN_POOLE @badredheadmedia @sue_whitehouse

@MichelleHughes_ @RachelintheOC @Toonopolis @Pseudohumanist

@ApiarySociety @YogaChikk @Sexxiimanda @KathleenHagburg @KatherynLane @dkkauwe

@Georg_Grey @Literarygrrrl @torque10 @TGLong @RayneHall @Murphyverse @WriterCath

@Frecklesmiley @Kendallgrey1 @TheNeedsofMany @BlakeBooks @Hyphend @juttaheitland @SapphicPixie

@deann_native @littlecinnamon @KnightTrilogy @smreine @AuthorGuy @daezarkian @ToxZak

@K_Einsel @TameTheDrew @SJtheWordsmith @MrsDenAsaan @JulieALindsey @writerredux @aniaahlborn

@LukeRomyn @Lesism @seams16 @kaitnolan @TheNerdyBird @Superherologist @pat_preston @Lillith_Black

@borderfox116 @linesbylyons @LettersbyLisa @AndyHolloman @AllanDouglasDgn @KimberlyKinrade

@AmberWest @louise3anne @EvilVulcanChick @Buck_Fachmann @CMCCreations @Macdougall4

@CassidyJonesAdv @CorinneOFlynn @2r3al2real @brackenonline @CeiCeiH @Killpandakill @MichWritesBooks

@KarenCousineau @almahoffmann @DaddyBookins @leo_g18 @KeeraMcKinney @Ambertarian @Jarrett

@Janice_Hardy @KravensQueen @JROrtiz59 @paultlowe @SandraBunino @mpax1

@djkazoosa @TX_Lisa @DashaBabenko @wilkravitz @SherAHart @sharleenj @Rob__Shepherd

@THESEXXIIMANDA @MonicaInGearMag @lkblackburne @seedpearls @markaleshin @TiredFairy

@MeMyselfandI444 @Asperger_Mom @Kelsye @CuttingRoomMRB @HarveyBurgess

@wanderingstarz1 @DetFrankFrank @DESIRE3795 @dontkillkenny19 @kcrhoads1 @LZMarieAuthor

@gingergander @markfromkent @omaraburtot @chanelle1977 @cheryl_777 @chessmaster34

@natolifreelance @djkazoosa @tattooeddeadgrl @nittni3 @bonusmum @troisfeuilles 

@Clive_SJohnson @NathanTarantla @rpdahlke @MaxChina3 @MondayBlogs @Lilo_Abernathy

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Tales from Frewyn

What's so special about it?  Whenever good writers take the time to create work at a level of quality they're confident enough to share with the world, it's special.  With a blog tour, that presentation takes on exponential momentum like the theoretical snowball enlarging as it rolls.  So, now that you have the image of a tumbling mass of writers, rolling over other writers, let's find out what's going on in there.

That tumbling mass will be composed of a unique combination of creators, ensuring that following the path it takes will lead you to treasures you may never have experienced before.  How could that not sound worth the trip?
Featuring appearances from thirty of the Haanta series’ most beloved characters, Tales from Frewyn Volume Two pays tribute to the animals that inhabit the world of the Two Continents. From Mr Cluck, the rooster that refuses to crow, to Tuatha, the stubborn Westren longhorn, the series boasts a multitude of strange and wonderful creatures, including traveling mice, mischievous mares, vicious rats, and eloquent gulls. Join everyone in Khantara Ghaasta, the Diras Castle keep, and the far reaches of Westren and Haantaledhran in honouring their feathered companions and furred friends with this collection of their most daring and delightful episodes.

Try this sample to see what that means:
  It was one day, while Sheamas was bringing his usual consignment of cured pork and cold meats to the keep, that he discovered a mouse in the larder. He took his casks and parcels to the counter and had almost set them down when his eye caught the round ears and twitching nose of their little visitor. The appearance of a mouse would not have disturbed him, but to see it in Martje’s kitchen, knowing how meticulous she was in keeping her working space clean, was somewhat unsettling. Martje, the most officious kitchen master in the kingdom, would be sent into a ferocious rage if she should discover a mouse. Skillets would be got, tempers would flare, and if Sheamas had not placed his parcel down and taken the mouse into his hand, he feared that the creature might be crushed and killed.

  “You just come with me, small one,” Sheamas smiled to the mouse. “I’ll take you outside so Martje won’t find you,” but as Sheamas was about to leave the larder, the mouse sat up, made a slight squeak, sniffed a few times in the air, and turned around to reveal a small sweater vest lining his torso and a tiny rolled-up parchment attached to his back. “Are you someone’s pet?” asked Sheamas.

  The mouse canted its head and looked sagacious.

  “All right, let’s see what you got here,” but before he could unfurl the parchment and read its contents, he heard someone bounding down the winding stair. He knew from the sound of the light step that it could not be Martje, and when he saw the commander appear in the entranceway of the kitchen, he called her to come to him with a fervent wave of his hand.

  “What is it, Sheamas?” said the commander, walking into the larder. “You need not fear my mate attacking you while you’re making your delivery. He shall eat everything only after you have put your consignment away.” She smiled, but Sheamas’ serious expression and the mouse in his hand soon gave her very different feelings. “Oh, that is rather unfortunate,” she said, regarding the sniffing mouse. “In Tyfferim, where mice rage across the fields, having at least one of them somewhere in the house is a matter of course. Having one in the kitchen of His Majesty’s keep, however, is something else.”

  “You don’t know Martje and mice, kin,” Sheamas grimaced. “She’ll grab her pans and chase after this poor thing till it’s dead. I was gonna take him home with me and give him some of the leftover smoked cheese me and Mar had last night, but I saw this.” Sheamas held the small letter up for the commander’s perusal, and pointing to the small sweater vest, he added, “And I saw that too.”

  The commander smirked to herself: only one person in the world should take the trouble of dressing a mouse, and in opening the letter and reading its contents, all her suspicions were thus confirmed.

  Bhudhiika Anonnaa,

  I hope our little friend made it to Frewyn all right. Frewyn is colder than it is here on the islands so I made him a little sweater to keep him warm. Janir was kind to take him as far as Marridon, but then I think Mr Sniffles the Second made the rest of the journey on his own. We have new Ghiosa on the islands: mice Ghiosa from Lucentia! Leraa made sure they were cared for immediately when they came. Mr Sniffles the Second came after our Sniffles family joined us. He was interested to see Frewyn, so Leraa suggested that he live at the temple in Diras for a while until the winter comes.

  Please take good care of him!

  Ghesturaas Dan Anaalon,
  Kai Linaa, Sanhedhran, Haantaledhran

  “Sanhedhran has an invasion of rather small converts,” the commander said, rolling up the letter. “I don’t know whether that is endearing or excessively unsavoury.”

  “If they’re as clean as this small one is here, kin,” said Sheamas, “I think it’s just fine.”

  Sheamas made his chuckling remarks in time for Martje to hear them from the yeoman’s quarter entrance to the kitchen. She was pleased to see that her brother had come so early in the day and hoped that he might be persuaded to take breakfast with them, but upon entering the oven room and descrying the small creature sitting in his hand, Martje’s temper was instantly roused. She gasped and leapt to the scullery to fetch the heaviest skillet. “You little bastard,” she seethed, creeping toward the larder, “I’ll have no mice in this kitchen.” She raised the skillet over her head and prepared to swing, regardless of her brother’s hand being in the way, when she suddenly stopped, the skillet suspended over her head. “Why is that mouse wearin’ a sweater?”

  “Because Kai Linaa dressed him in it,” the commander laughed.

  “Sure, you’re foolin’ me somethin’ terrible,” the cook exclaimed. “You dressed him so’s I wouldn’t kill him.”

  The commander shook her head. “I assure you, this is all Kai Linaa’s doing.”

  The letter was given over, and upon reading the contents, Martje was at a loss for words. A mouse that had wandered into her kitchen being allowed to live: its twitching whiskers offended her, its smiling countenance made her skin itch, and the more she regarded the adorable creature, the tighter her hands enveloped around her skillet. “You can’t keep it here, kin,” she demanded. “It’s gotta find it somewhere else to go before I go mad and all.”

  “You mean you don’t want to invite him for breakfast?”

  “If he ain’t careful, I’ll make him the cat’s breakfast.”

  “Very well,” the commander smiled. “I think we had better bring him to your shoppe, Sheamas, before Martje decides to fustigate him to death.” 

  The small mouse was conveyed safely to Sheamas’ shoppe, where his arrival was met with a celebratory dinner of smoked cheese and cured pork, and once his belly was round and his eyes were closing, he was taken to the temple where he might find refuge under the auspices of the Themari. A small room and bed was given him, visits from Soledhan and Little Jaicobh were due, and Mr Sniffles the Second, as named by Kai Linaa, was in a way to be happy and comfortable during the long Frewyn winter.

For those of you who've forgotten, having gotten caught up in that excerpt, this is only the first stop on a blog tour that's going on for a whole week (Dec. 15-22) to celebrate the release of Michelle's latest work.  Obviously, I think it's worth your time and a few mouse clicks to see where this rabbit hole leads you.

Michelle Franklin is a small woman of moderate consequence who writes many, many books about giants, romance, and chocolate.  If you're a fan of literary fantasy of a humorous bent, explore her work and connect with her on Twitter and/or Facebook.  Tales of Frewyn Volume Two is available through Amazon, Smashwords, iTunes, and Barnes and Noble.

Friday, December 13, 2013

17231--Erotica: afterglow

Free expression is important to me. When it comes to words, images and music, I continue to stand by the opinion that if you don’t like them, don’t look or listen. Not liking them, though doesn’t give you the right to suppress someone else’s expression. One of the things I don’t like at present is Amazon’s current book listing procedure that makes a writer’s work subject to special scrutiny by the company’s personnel. Much like the motion picture rating process, there are parts of the system that remain mysterious to those of us attempting to use it. In this case, it means creators must pass the scrutiny of unknown eyes that have the capacity to literally judge books by their covers and reclassify them based upon image or title no matter what the writer has to say about the content. It means that self publishing writers are left without key controls over the marketing disposition of their own creations.

In theory, this seemingly subtle form of censorship can place a book on a virtual shelf where a writer never intended it to be. Having your deeply religious work end up labeled as philosophy or self-help and your scholarly documentary placed as a children’s book may not seem like much to someone who’s not a writer, but it’s a few exponential steps beyond any of those arguments you ever had with your parents those times when they were being arbitrarily unfair about anything you wanted to do. Fighting with Amazon personnel over it as an adult will leave you feeling about as impotent.

What seems to be the most extreme result of this is that Amazon has the power to relegate a book to the obscurity of a virtual pornography closet if it is deemed that any element of it is too dangerously adult unless it is changed. Again, to some it may not sound like much, but if you’ve been told by some government clerk that the carefully crafted name you’ve bestowed upon your love child (in honor of your beloved grandparents) has to be changed to something the clerk likes, you’re going to be upset. You could decide to stay with your original decision, but when it comes to a book that obscure placement can have a tremendous impact. Suppose that it had been decided that “Moby Dick” could only have been sold in adult bookstores because of its title because…come on, we know what that title means. No, it doesn’t matter what you say the story is about, just look at that title. Seriously? You want high school students reading porn? Now, imagine that “The Scarlet Letter” or “Lady Chatterly’s Lover” had been released under the name “Whore”. How many people would’ve found it on the shelf of the adult bookstores it was hidden in because they were the only places that could carry it? Should some disinterested functionary have had the power to change their titles to “A Small Town Scandal” because it sounded less offensive?

In the realm of independent publishing supposedly governed by free expression, the correct answer is “No.”

If you’re writing, take heed, because the righteousness of your fight is going to matter less than you’d like. Unfortunately, the reality of it all comes down to this: whether you’re pouring your heart into a tragic chronicle of a prostitute’s life on the streets or a passionate virgin’s sexual awakening, don’t name it “Whore”. Sure, you know it’s a biography or a romance or a literary adventure or even a religious redemption, but you may not like how it ends.

Sorry for the spoiler.

How did this get started?  Where do pop culture and politics meet in scandal?  Why don't I watch MTV anymore?

For those answers, the prelude to this post (Erotica: Foreplay) can be read along with video of the historic controversy over at Tears of Crimson where my friend Michelle Hughes weaves her wicked writings about vampires, virgins, and strong men who don't spend a lot of money on shirts.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

17228--Hope? That's the plan?

I assume you're familiar with Superman.

Kal-el.  The man of steel.  Last son of Krypton.  The man of tomorrow.  Tall guy, dark--

Anyway, it's a safe bet that you're familiar with him because most of the world is to some degree or another.  He's a role model and an icon, more recognizable than presidents, popes and kings.  Some of it has to do with the red cape and blue suit.  Some of it is that big, red shield spread across his chest.  Over the last seventy-five years, it has become a symbol that is as widely recognized as its wearer.  The stylized shield is tied to his name.

Since his arrival, we've known him by it.  That's what a symbol is for: a shorthand reference to quickly evoke all it has come to embody.  In Superman's earliest lore, nothing was said of it.  It was just a part of his clothes.  Later, when his Smallville background was explored, its creation was attributed to his adoptive father, Jonathan Kent.  That element of his story held sway for several years.  Superman: The Movie, however, put forth the idea that it was not only his symbol on Earth, but that of his family, the house of El, on Krypton.  That planted seed gradually flourished, replacing previous notions to the point that the symbol became a part of the Kryptonian alphabet.

Now, it's not even a stylized "S".  It seems pretty silly for Superman to contend that it isn't one without even acknowledging that it resembles an "S".  He may not be from around here, but he's not new here either.  It may no longer mean "Superman" literally, though it is no less his symbol, but it has certainly never stood for "Stupid".  Granted, there are those who might argue even that point with as many times as his scribes have had him unwittingly blunder into the clumsy kryptonite traps of an underachieving Lex Luthor or just charge into the radioactive substance's area of effect by failing to use the multitude of heightened senses and superpowers with which he's long been graced.

Pardon my penchant for tangents, but Eve Tessmacher did have a great point when she told her boss that he wouldn't be able to get within a mile of the big blue boy scout with a glowing green rock.  Even tricking him into opening the lead box himself should've only resulted in his closing it faster than most of us would recoil from a hot pot on a stove.  Beyond even the consideration of super-fast reflexes kicking into gear at the first hint of such potently debilitating radiation, he's not super-arrogant or uber-overconfident.  When he's charging into the lair of a resourceful king of supervillainy (his PR people insist on such adjectives) who seems undisturbed by the visit, you'd think Superman would exercise sense enough to check for traps, killer robots, mad scientist superweapons of mass destruction...  They haven't let Lex Luthor or really anyone but Zod flex the hardcore superscience muscles on-screen yet, but the real Luthor (the one who's a serious threat to Superman) could run workshop's for James Bond's villains.  Maybe he does.  That would explain where they get their toys, which is about what Luthor would consider them to be.  Or maybe science projects.  Most of his evil genius steers toward better and better ways to assault Superman.  That means producing higher order output and plans than "Guess which hand I have the kryptonite in."  Great heroes and superior villains make each other bring their best game to the playing field.  If you're going to put all that into a movie or on TV, we want to see it.

Now, as I was saying, the symbol endures.  There've been mystifying alterations to Superman's clothes and background, but the symbol endures.  Still, it's no longer an "S".  Sure, it still looks like an "S", but now it's both part of the Kryptonian alphabet and the Kryptonian symbol meaning "hope".  In Man of Steel, when he refuses to acknowledge to Lois that the swirl on his chest looks like an "S" (even though he has lived on Earth as long as he can remember), I have to take her side.  Contemporary writers have chosen to pack both personal and public meaning into Superman's symbol, making it his family's crest and the representation of "hope".  Don't get me wrong, I've always got Superman's back, but the Lois POV makes more sense to me this time: whatever you want to call your swirly chest shield, it looks like an "S" so come up with a name to go with that...something that sounds catchier than "Hopeman".  Being hopeful may sound positive, but it doesn't carry the impetus of definitive confidence that "super" does.

Let's face it, you fly around doing what Superman does and you're going to inspire most people to feel something about it.  The ones who have time to ask "What's the 'S' stand for?" and those who later hear the explanation of the chest swirl are going to be a lot more responsive to the short answer "Superman" than they will be to getting a lecture about having a flag of hope waved in their face.  Using your superhuman powers to help people is wonderful and selfless.  It's the sort of thing that's generally well-received.  Telling people how to feel about it is pushy and I don't think anybody likes that.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

17216--Two Shades of Black

The City of Magick, oddly enough, is governed by the god of Bright Chaos, Coyote.  Since the entire plane of Magick is subject to the Trickster's will, allowing the focus of its darkest elements on what had become the least dangerous area to humans almost makes it seem as though he takes a special interest in tormenting those who dwell there.  Of course, some will say the humans have brought the darkness upon themselves.  Anything's possible.

The presence of humans and darkness in The City invites the focus on two types of stories that are very similar, but have very specific differences.  Those are hardboiled and noir genres.  The close relatives are made distinct by the nature of their protagonists.  A hardboiled protagonist meets the challenges of a corrupt and violent world with anti-hero cynicism.  His attitude probably comes from having experienced so much from the darker side of life that he not only considers it normal, but is happy to fight fire with fire.  That protagonist is a crime-solver, whether a detective, a maverick cop or gun-toting amateur.

The protagonist in noir fiction isn't a crime-solver and might actually be either a perpetrator or a victim.  This character is less a hard rock in a river of corruption and more one of the many fish navigating the murky waters.  Noir's protagonist may be a victim, but his character is likely to respond by victimizing others and perpetuating the darkness.  With players who may be as self-destructive as self-preserving, saying whether they come out as winners or losers may depend on which way the light hits the scene.

All that, of course, means that the most insidious dangers in the dark corners of The City may not come from magic.  That sexy stranger warming up to the struggling protagonist may seem like a bright oasis in the night, but a lot of steamy intimacy could still end with a knife between either's ribs.  The best advice for characters in either noir or hardboiled genres might be to drop the word "trust" from their vocabularies, especially when some shouldn't even trust themselves.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

17201--Getting Things Straight

"I'm here to fight for truth, justice, and the American way." ~ Superman

Takes you right back to December of 1978, doesn't it?  Well, alright, I'll concede that not everyone drawn to reading this was necessarily around for the theatrical release of Superman: The Movie.  Certainly, though, you've seen it by now.  The film was well made, making it remain fun to watch.  At the same time, though, there were real world issues that spilled over into shaping the finished product.

The producers and the director didn't get along.  Some of the details strayed from comic book continuity, even though some of the film's elements have since been adapted into the comics.  One of the problems that came up, though, is one that continues to rear its ugly head and I'd like to help bridge the communication gap that apparently exists.

Back then, it was a time that the comic book world has come to refer to as Pre-Crisis.  One of the notable hallmarks of that era was the Man of Steel's incalculable Kryptonian power.  With virtually unlimited power available to him, Superman would usually find a way to achieve any task he felt he needed to accomplish.  As a product of his incredible power level, he had figured out how to penetrate the time barrier so that he could move backward and forward through the time stream freely.  Now, two of the requirements of this continuum-rending feat were 1) that he fly faster than light speed (he could do that back then) and 2) he had to incorporate a specifically calculated turn into his flight path (easily determined with his super-intellect) that basically resulted in his flying in circles.  Now, one of the dynamics that even Superman needed to respect was aerodynamics.  For the sake of the environment and those dependent upon it, he took his hyper-speed, time barrier breaking flights out of the atmosphere.

So, where does that leave us?  Near the re-write that became part of the film's climax and had Superman fly back in time about fifteen minutes to save Lois Lane from being crushed to death.  Ignoring the time travel rules that would've prevented this sort of convenient story-tampering in the comics of the day (the film did, so...), let's just focus on what we're here for: perception.  What the film creators did in the confines of their work was basically fine.  What seems to have been received by large numbers of viewers is the idea that Superman "turned the Earth backward" to save the day.  Granted, Pre-Crisis Superman had been known to push planets around when the need arose, but the physical realities of such a feat would be far more catastrophic than the quake Lex Luthor triggered.  Superman came to help us.  He would not and did not turn the Earth backward.

What so many people seem almost unwilling to wrap their minds around is that Superman was flying through time, first back and then forward as he was targeting a specific moment.  To him and the audience, the world appeared to spin backward and the damage seemed to reverse itself.  When he dropped back into normal time, everything would've resumed happening as it had on first viewing.  I can understand the convenience for Supes, flying around the world so he could watch to see the event he was looking for, but it was apparently confusing for those unfamiliar with such things.  Clarification is long overdue.  You can thank me later.

That this major point of the film has been so misunderstood by so many makes me feel that the creators didn't run it past test viewers to make sure they were getting across what they intended.  It seems that a little extra writing to help everyone understand what was going on would've helped.  An alternative might've been to use the path that would later be traveled in the Smallville TV series and have our favorite caped farm boy coerce a chronal second chance out of Jor-El's Fortress of Solitude techno-presence.  Finding themselves rushed by the clash of the executives and uncertain as to how well the movie would even be received, I don't suppose I can fault them for not making that leap.

If you're a writer, though, heed this.  Take the time to come out of your Batcave or your Fortress of Solitude or wherever it is you write and let some other eyes see your work.  Let some other minds form opinions about what you've crafted.  That's how you can be sure of the reception of what was born in and has only had to exist in the labyrinthine twists of your own coffee-fueled, gin-soaked brain and whatever world it has cobbled together.  You wrote the thing.  Of course you get it.  Your job, that of any writer, is to make your conceptions understandable to others.  With developed skill, you'll grow past being ham-fisted about it and learn to make your audience "get it" in whatever way you want.

Now, for those of you who are really really interested in this, follow along.  The time travel fix used in the film wouldn't have worked with the Pre-Crisis time travel rules because they were designed to prevent just that sort of thing.  Just as Quantum Leap would later reverse, tethering the traveler to effectiveness within his lifespan, DC's rules dictated that the traveler was completely unable to affect things at any point in the time stream in which he already existed.  Following those rules, movie Superman could've gone back in time, but only to watch as helplessly as Ebeneezer Scrooge being dragged around the continuum by tormenting spirits.  So, while he was saving California, he's also come back in time and become a spectral observer so...he can watch Lois die.  Psychological trauma and the humility of humanizing limitations conveniently wrapped into a single package that happens to look like a blood-soaked crushed car.

What was completely ignored was what they did give us: fifteen minutes of two supermen.  While time traveling Superman stood around chatting with Jimmy and a time paradox Lois quake, original Superman was flying around doing all the hero work ignorant to the fact that he was minutes away from jaunting back through time for the conversation his time paradox self was simultaneously having with a time paradox Lois... She still has to die, you see, to spur him to go back in time...Great Gallifrey!  They've shoved Lois into a blue police box and turned her into Schroedinger's Cat! 

Yeah, the Smallville solution definitely would've been the way to go.

Monday, November 11, 2013

17199--Can You Handle the Truth?

It's a simple enough question and the answer can be character-revealing.  Better still, it can also be character-developing.

A useful aspect of writing is editorial feedback.  To most people, this is also known as constructive criticism.  Some of it can be more constructive than others.  The importance of it, though, is that it can tell a writer how his work is being perceived by readers.  The writer may, or at least should, know what he intended to convey.  The best feedback will let him know how near he came to the intended target and provide a guide for closing the gap to it.  Critiques and reviews aren't just about blowing sunshine up a writer's ass, delightful as that may be.  They've become public signposts telling other readers whether or not to read a work based on what someone else got from it or failed to get from it.

Whatever you take from someone else's review, you're a third party in a two-party conversation that should be happening with the goal of helping a creator hone his skills.

I've had teachers who were very dedicated to this process, one who was bad at it and another who I'm pretty sure was ready to retire and seemed to have given up on it altogether.  That last one was back in an English class.  She had taken to insisting that we read books of our choosing, writing reports on them, then turning them in only to never see them again.  When we asked about getting the reports back, she would say something to stall and go on with class.  One of my classmates decided to join her in her game.  He told me that he was certain she wasn't doing anything with the papers we turned in and was merely making up grades.  What we wanted and needed, though, was honest feedback.

To test the point, when next she asked for him to turn in his reports, he claimed he already had.  She debated his claim because she had no mark in her grade book to record that he'd turned in his reports.  He countered by insisting that he had placed the reports on her desk.  Her desk was very messy.

She looked upon it with an expression of hopelessness.  It was very, very messy.

"Well, alright," she said, making a mark in her ledger.

Class moved onward and he never heard any more from her about it.  None of us did.  We received no feedback on our work and our potential opportunity for growth was thus squandered.  I can't prove any connection and I suppose it'd be a statistical anomaly were there a connection to be made, but the guy I didn't name above went on to shoot his immediate family a few years later, murdering his mother in the process.  Sure, odds are it's unrelated, but why take the chance?  If you have the opportunity to help someone grow and improve, make that difference.

The truth may sting, but it can also help.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

17194--A Must Have

As a citizen of modern society, there are certain skills you should possess as a part of your repertoire.  If you're a writer, there are some specific overlaps that should be included.  My focus is on just one, but that one is so important that I'm using it even now.  That's right, touch typing.

For most, the ubiquitous presence of computers that has developed over the last few decades should be motivation enough to learn it if you haven't already.  Even if you're transitioning to finger swiping or electronic pens or optical control, learn it.  You may be anticipating the advent of effective neural feedback or thought control, but learn it anyway.  One of the great things touch typing teaches you is how to read and type simultaneously.  The aid this brings to your ability to split focus effectively is invaluable.  Even though I learned to type many years ago, to this day, I'm usually aware enough of what my fingers are doing that even if I make a typo, I'm aware of it when it's happening and can catch it immediately.

If you're not everybody else and happen to be a writer, the ability to touch type will be a boost to your speed and efficiency that you should not disregard.  Not only will it help you with the aforementioned splitting of focus, but allow you shift focus more smoothly.  All this will help you with not only writing, but rewriting.  Yay!  Not to brag, but spelling errors are rare finds in my edits and I never use spell check.  Typing proficiency lets you think about what those fingers are doing without having to watch them every second.

As a child, typing was one of the skills my mom always reminded me to learn.  She made a lot of money in college typing people's papers for them, so she figured I could at least benefit by not paying someone else to type for me.  Even if I wrote everything out with a pen, I wouldn't want to have someone else type for me (which admittedly means I'm stuck with doing my own typing no matter how successful I become at selling novels) because there are a lot of great things that come to me in the process of typing.  It's part of my creative process, apparently, that my imagination keeps on developing while I'm writing.  That may have been inevitable or it may have been because I used to write science fiction chapters on the fly in typing class, then turn them in as English homework in the following period.  Bonus: rapid critique feedback.

For those among you who also find yourself developing ideas while typing, there are probably also many of you who end up with the tone of your output changing from your original intent.  Again, this is just another reason you should be typing.  If you haven't already, make it a part of your creative process.  I won't deny that there's one particular brand of pen I enjoy the feel of writing with (so I buy many of them), but learn to type.  It's not a party trick.  We've taken ourselves to a point where it's practically ridiculous not to have it as a basic computer skill.

Get to it.

Monday, October 28, 2013

17185--Child of Fire and Blood (Ch. 65)

The trouble starts over on the Theobroma page. I've decided to continue it out here with a few chapters for your perusal. Enjoy a taste of Tarakk prior to indulging in the novels. This particular morsel is a sampling from Part Three, available soon.  Feedback or questions on the world, its people, their gods or whatever are equally welcome.



Spending years watching one after another of her family pass to the afterlife, Bodderil had dutifully stepped into the role of overseeing the daily functions of the only home she could recall ever knowing. Despite being Theron’s niece, Bodderil had been raised as a daughter of the manor since the deaths of Theron’s brother and sister-in-law and tended Theron’s holdings as such in his absence. Though only one of many minor lords of the Seventh Tribe, Theron the Swift as the head of a Charis’colia family had steadfastly immersed himself in the Southern Campaigns when called to service by the Crimson Throne. Under the guise of warrior’s duty, he suppressed the grief over his dead family by drowning it in distraction and the blood of others.

As on most days in Alban, snow fell on swirling winds as Bodderil approached the family’s shrine in the sheltered courtyard on the mansion’s west side. As she expected, she found Davees Gensdan, the manor’s armsman, on his knees in a meditative state. He had become predictable enough that he could usually be found there at about the same time each day. Bodderil was unsure of his age, but expected such regularity from a military man of his years.

“Armsman,” she addressed him gently. “I am sorry to interrupt…It’s probably nothing…”

“Nonsense,” the elder veteran assured her, leaning on his studded club as he pushed back to his feet. “If you have a concern, taking care of it is what I’m here for,” he said, straightening his wool waistcoat and brushing the snow from his pants.

“Are you alright?” she asked him, her eyes working their way up to his weathered face.

“Nothing for you to be concerned about, my lady,” he told her.

“My uncle is a warrior, you know,” she reminded him, leaving the courtyard with the veteran escorting her. “So was his brother, my father, and their father…”

“You’re trying to tell me something.”

“I’ve read the faces of warriors before,” she said. “There’s much you’re trying to hide, things from your past that plague you still.”

“Snow-covered stone does my knees little good,” he laughed, “but it’s my own fault for continuing to pray there.”

“They must be terribly troubling memories, then,” Bodderil said. “In future, perhaps you should add kneepads to your prayers for peace.”

“Or younger knees,” he said as they walked through the snow toward the manor house’s front doors. “The kneepads I own are a part of my…old life, a uniform I’m sworn to wear no longer.”

“Well, I trust you will not require it today,” she said, looking out across the snowy grounds. “Perimeter sensors at the front gate indicated we have a visitor approaching. It is far too soon for the maid and cook to be back from market.”

“Were you expecting someone?” he asked.

“No, Armsman Gensdan,” she said. “That is why I collected you. Had I been expecting company, you would already have been aware.”

“Of course, my lady,” he said, narrowing his eyes to focus through the windblown snows. “Forgive me.”

“Forgive yourself, armsman,” she told him. “Whatever troubles you, leave it in the past.”

“There,” he said, pointing into the distance. “Looks like a skimmer, humming this way fast, though moving oddly. It’s definitely not our supply truck.”

“A single rider. Well, that should make the day a little more interesting,” she said, pulling the collar of her coat tighter about her long neck. “Perhaps it’s a courier from Uncle Theron.”

“I suppose it’d be too much to ask you to wait inside while I find out,” he proposed.

“I’ll wait by the door,” she said, taking a few steps back, “but I don’t want to miss anything.”

“Fine,” the armsman said, “just remember to stay behind me.”

The swift snow skimmer slowed to a stop, the soldier aboard standing tall as he climbed off the sleek, but damaged vehicle.

“Good day,” he greeted them, quickly looking both of them over. “I am Lieutenant Oulerat. Are these the lands of Lord Theron?”

“They are,” Gensdan replied. “Why are you bleeding on them?”

“My injuries are minor,” he said, trying to force a smile, “almost pleasant, considering my encounter with a hungry blood bear that required some effort to drive off.”

“A blood bear? Arrecol’s beard!” Bodderil gasped as she stepped forward. “Are you sure you’re alright?”

“I’ve seen worse in battle, I assure you,” the lieutenant said. “More urgently, though, I’ve come to see Lord Theron. I have a message for him, a commendation of merit from his majesty.”

“An honor to be sure,” Bodderil noted, “but he is not present. My uncle remains in service in the Southern Campaigns.”

“Are you certain?” Oulerat asked. “I was told he would be here.”

“Perhaps, then, he is on his way,” Bodderil smiled, “and we have merely not yet received word of his return. What a welcome joy. Come inside, officer. I will see you refreshed and have that wounded arm tended while we wait.”

“I have something to make any pain from that wound a distant memory,” Armsman Gensdan said.

“I wouldn’t want to be thought of as a warrior who couldn’t handle some insignificant discomfort,” Oulerat said as his arm continued to drip precious crimson.

“Whatever relief my armsman has to offer,” Bodderil said, “we won’t tell a soul.”

“With my lady’s leave, I will retrieve it from my quarters and meet you in the front parlor.”

“That will do, armsman,” she said, gesturing for the handsome young officer to follow her through the front door. “Come, lieutenant, enjoy the warmth of our fire.”

“Many thanks,” he said, starting to remove his helmet before even entering the manor house. “This humble servant of the crown is unworthy of your noble hospitality.”

“Nonsense,” Bodderil replied. “Your bravery and sacrifice bring you all due reward.”

“Thank you,” Lieutenant Oulerat said, raising his arm to the level of his shoulder. “I’ll try not to bleed on anything.”

Alban had been engaged in a forty-sixth year of fighting across the Sambertan Archipelago. A fifth of the planet was under bitter contention as disparate factions struggled for control of the ten islands, large and small. The seemingly endless conflicts between the Feren Nationalists and the Tintorio Union became escalating stages of using increasingly unconventional and ruthless warfare. No matter how deeply any of the participants descended into inhumanity, they found justification for their decisions.

The Feren were dedicated to a cause they labeled "geographic purity", professing that people should remain in whatever lands which they had ancestral origin. Their nationalist forces enthusiastically slaughtered anyone who resisted their ideas of order. The goals of the Feren Nationalists put them at odds with the territorial Tintorio Union. Espousing the teachings of the venerated Kajra Tintorio, the Tintorio Union fought for its populace to live free from any foreign influence. The Daskine Dynasty sought to extend its “divinely granted dominion” over the resource-rich territory seized by the rebellious Kajra Tintorio. An overcommitment to reclaiming the wilderness occupied by the Tintorio Union blinded the Daskine to a power grab by the Quitachi family, controllers of most of the region’s food producing land, until it was too late to avert. Leaping into the political battleground with a death toll exceeding five thousand in a single day, the Quitachi were rewarded with control over even more fertile lands and the removal of internal resistance. Stepping into power also put the Quitachi directly at odds with the Tintorio Union over manual laborers, each side’s leadership accusing the other of exploiting its workforce as slaves toiling in unsafe conditions.

Alban became embroiled in the bloody conflict supporting the Daskine Dynasty, the only faction that professed friendliness toward the northern monarchy. When power changed hands, Quitachi assurances of increased food shipments to the north silenced any qualms that might have been given voice from the Crimson Throne. Uniting with the Quitachi’s mercenary army, the Albani found an alliance that brought continued benefits from the Southern Campaigns no matter the goals of any faction.

“Get out of that heavy coat and hold this over your wound with enough pressure to stop the blood,” Bodderil told Oulerat, handing him a dark towel as she rejoined him in the parlor.

“Thank you, mistress.”

“No trouble at all,” she told him. “Would you prefer wine or vitarae?”

“Just a little vitarae, if it’s no trouble,” the officer answered, secretly looking forward to dulling the additional pain he was causing himself by applying pressure to the gash in his upper arm.

“No trouble at all,” she said, taking a glass from the beverage cart. “I could probably even find some laquina if you want to test yourself. We don’t keep much of it, but the armsman will drink nothing else.”

“With nothing else in my stomach,” he told her, “I think the vitarae is all I should dare now.”

“Understandable,” she smiled, pouring him a half-glass of the golden brown liquid. “Have you spent any time in the war down there?”
“No, not yet,” he told her. “My postings have kept me closer to home. I’ve seen a little combat, dealing with pirates, but I’ve been talking to some senior officers who said I may get a chance at some real action soon.”

“Well, I wish you all the grace of the gods,” she said, handing him the glass. “May glory be heaped upon you.”

“Serve well. Die well,” he said.

“Why don’t you tell us about it?” the armsman asked, suddenly beside the distracted lieutenant before he realized what was happening.

The aged head of security hammered the officer’s damaged arm with a hard staff strike. The younger man tried to mask his reaction, but his clenched teeth and watering eyes betrayed him. He tried to get to his feet, but his attacker knocked him to the floor.

“Gensdan, what are you doing?” Bodderil asked, rushing toward the men despite her shock at the sudden violence.

“Stay back, mistress,” Gensdan warned, never taking his eyes from his floored target. “This boy’s been lying to you.”

The armsman put the bladed point of his lance to the lieutenant’s navel and one foot on his bleeding arm, applying pressure to both.

“Lying? A-Are you sure?” Bodderil asked.

“This arm wound wasn’t caused by a blood bear,” the armsman said. “If it had been, the animal never would’ve been driven off. That’s why we call them blood bears. It would’ve followed you here unless you killed it, which is not an easy feat with a blood-frenzied bear. More likely, he attacked the manor’s supply truck and killed the maid and cook.”

“What? No,” Bodderil protested with a horrified whisper.

“The damage to the snow skimmer is consistent with a truck collision,” Gensdan explained, pressing harder with the lance. “He thinks he’s here to kill your uncle and anyone else who gets in his way. Isn’t that right, Oulerat?”


“Speak, boy,” Gensdan commanded, applying still more pressure to the soft abdomen beneath the point of his lance. “Explain to the gracious lady how a commendation such as you described would only be presented in Crown City, or didn’t you know that?”

“Theron murdered my father!” Oulerat yelled, hot tears streaming from his eyes. “He has to pay for that. It’s my duty…”

“No doubt, you were told of Lord Theron’s hand in Major Oulerat’s death by the same person who told you his lordship would be found here,” Gensdan said.

“Yes,” Lieutenant Oulerat confirmed. “Yes. How did you…?”

“I knew your father,” Gensdan said, “during service in Sambartan. He strived to be a decent man…a good warrior.”

“But Uncle Theron, he didn’t…”

“No, child,” Gensdan assured her, taking his foot off the lieutenant’s arm. “Theron the Swift may have stains on his record that go unspoken in public, but this boy’s father is not among them. As memory serves, he was in another unit, on an entirely different campaign, nowhere near Oulerat’s death. Get up, boy.”

“You were there, in the Southern Campaigns?” Bodderil asked him. “How do you know my uncle and his father?”

“And why was I given this?” Lieutenant Oulerat asked, holding out a message crystal as he struggled back to his feet.

The armsman removed a glove and took the crystal in his hand. As the warmth of his aged flesh triggered a reaction, ancient gray eyes whose owner would say had already seen far too much stared into the faceted stone.

“The Lost Prince,” the armsman spoke quietly as an image formed in the heart of the clear crystal. “This should be interesting.”

“Your first step toward redemption,” the image spoke, “may be found in reclamation of your honor. My gift to you.”

“Hmmm…then, map locations,” Gensdan said, the stone continuing to chatter in his mind even as he lowered his hand and looked at the others staring at him. “Here and then to the northeast.”

“What does it mean?” Bodderil asked him. “Why send him here? Davees, please…”

“I don’t understand,” Oulerat complained. “What is it you know, old man?”

“In what was considered by many to be the darkest times of the Sambartan warfare,” Gensdan explained, “there were deliberate civilian casualties, entire towns destroyed for the slightest hint of resistance or merely to make examples for others. Some argued they harbored hidden threats that voided any protective civilian status. Who knows? There were many accusations and internal conflicts among the Albani and the Daskine, some leading to their overthrow by the Quitachi and their army. Ultimately, General Karra was one of those deemed to hold primary responsibility.”

“General Talin Karra?” Oulerat asked.

“Yes, Karra the Butcher,” he said. “None other. In consideration of his years of extraordinary service, he was granted quiet exile to live out his days in infamy rather than face a full war crimes tribunal and possible execution.”

Removing a simple bracelet from his left wrist, Davees Gansden’s image altered. White hair became black and gray, the lines in his face became more severe, his beard more full and his build thicker and more imposing. The friendly, fatherly armsman Bodderil had known was replaced by a hardened warrior who bore the weight of experiences he could not leave behind him.

“Arrecol’s beard and hounds,” Bodderil said. “An illusion? All these years?”

“A necessary deception, child,” he told her, “for your safety as much as my own.”

“You’re General Karra,” Oulerat said.

“Yes, boy,” he acknowledged, leveling his stormlance at the young officer. “The message was for me.   I killed your father and without your family’s accusations to stand against me--”

Lightning flashed from the shining blade of the enchanted stormlance. Brilliant light and the sound of thunder filled the parlor, the lightning’s energy hurling the slender lieutenant backward. The officer’s lifeless body flew over the couch to land smoldering on the floor like a discarded child’s toy.

“--it would seem my story is not so near its end as I’d thought,” Karra said.

“Arms…General Karra,” she said, her voice trembling with uncertainty, “I…owe you my thanks, I believe.”

“Some, I suppose,” he said, “though I put little stock in slaying fools.”
“As always, you have served this house well,” she said. “You should be rewarded. Certainly, if you wish to continue here, there is no need for your shamed past to be revealed. You have my oath as a member of the Colia, I will tell no one.”

“I’ve been made an offer to restore my name,” he reminded her. “Nowhere in my heart have I yet found belief that I will ever know forgiveness, no matter how much I pray or meditate.”

“So you think that being remembered well will be enough?” she asked, taking his ungloved hand in her slender ones. Her soft, porcelain hands were barely half the size of his calloused hand, but she held it sandwiched as she implored, “Look at the blood that’s already been spilled. What cost for redemption in name only?”

“There’s no way to dispel the images I see when I close my eyes,” he said patiently, “nor to quiet the screams of my many, many victims. Changing my face does not hide me. Sleep provides no escape. There is a chance before me, though, just a chance…that history might record me as a hero rather than a villain.   I ask myself what price would be too high for that and pray that I will know the answer before I go too far.”

“It sounds as though you will yet have use for that old armor of yours,” she told him. “May glory be heaped upon your name.”

“General! General Karra!” one of his men called out to Karra more insistently. “Did you hear me, general? We pulled three bottles of laquina from your tent.”

General Karra realized he was still sitting before the yellow-orange flames of his blazing field command tent. Their hypnotic dance had set him adrift to fall prey to his memories.

“Just place them here beside me,” he commanded, “and get a bucket of water to chill them.” Spirits be praised, he reveled silently before the flames as he straightened himself in the wobbling chair he had been provided. Laquina may not hold off the visions that plague me, but at least it manages to make their coming survivable.

His heavy right hand reached down and checked the temperature of the waiting bottles as he resumed watching the dancing flames. When the first soldiers’ screams reached him, he was unsure they were real. Even as certainty set in, though, the weary general sat unmoving. The surreality of his situation carried a psychological inertia that closely resembled despair.

“No, leave it,” someone shouted in the night. “Don’t touch the damned frogs!”

“Get the doctors over here!” another soldier yelled. “We need doctors!”

Then, Karra remembered that sooner or later there was always screaming. There was no need to look. As a gift of his specialized experience, he could tell from the tone that there was blood. Blood always came with screams like those.

Monday, September 30, 2013


Through fire is the will of the maker enforced, shaping the metal into a blade of dangerous intent.  Rhythmic hammer blows may be accompanied by chant or incantation or blessing to infuse the newly crafted weapon with specific magic or other supernatural purpose, especially if hands beyond those of mortals are involved.  Air is breathed into the forge, fueling the flame and infusing the weapon with spirit.

And make no mistake, it is a weapon.  Call it nothing less.  It is no mere tool, brought into being for myriad function and adapted to combat.  The sword is a weapon, decisive and fearsome, edged for cutting and pointed for stabbing.  It is the one and only thing it was created to be.  The metal of the blade is chosen for its strength so that it may easily destroy tender, yielding flesh.  For thousands of years, man has been resigned to fighting his own kind.

Water is introduced to the fusion of elements, tempering the blade against stress with the fluid's cooling stability.  In its own ways, water is as mystical as fire and it is a special strength it shares with the sword.

Feared or hated by goblin, demon, shade and beast, whether supernatural or mundane, spawn of the dark or the light, none crave the blade's keen bite.  Inscribed with arcane symbols, imbued with the spirit of its wielder or ornamented with rarest gems, magic will only make the weapon more formidable.  In fact, the most ready counter to any sword, enchanted or otherwise, seems ever to be another sword.

Was your weapon custom-made or forged by means beyond mortal ken, perhaps an immortal's gift from another realm, fat with the weight of its destiny.  Draw forth your terrible blade, polish it bright and let others cringe before its shining menace and feel its awesome power.

Off the top of my head, of the many exotic personal weapons appearing in character hands throughout CHILD OF FIRE AND BLOOD, more than half of them are enchanted swords.  Face it, they're tough to get away from.  Do you have a favorite sword, magic or not, that holds a special place in your psyche?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

17152--Should You Choose to Accept It

The time is here.  So I'm calling upon you.  Why?  Because you love to read.  Coincidentally, I've been writing.  You're smart, so I know you're getting this.

I've been posting chapters on this site for a while and now the book they're from is ready for you.  The series is THEOBROMA and the first book CHILD OF FIRE AND BLOOD.  It's an epic fantasy/sci-fi adventure.  Because of its length, it's going to be released in four parts.  Part One is 406 pages/80,000+ words.  Part Two is about 550 pages/107,000+ words.  The first is what's available to you now, PART ONE: A RISING STORM.  Since you've been enjoying it so much, I'm giving you the opportunity to get your hands on it from the source before the release goes live.

Sure, you can go through Amazon if you like.  Don't think I won't appreciate it.  Buy copies for everyone you know and tell them to do the same.  Magic, dragons, swordplay, immortals and super science await.  Conspiracies, lost cities and sprawling warfare will ensnare with their intrigues.

Here's the thing, though, at Amazon a copy will cost you cash.  From me, you guessed it, you're trading for a review.  Put it on Goodreads, Amazon, tell your Facebook friends, put it on a blog of your own...hmmmm....I suppose I could do with a copy, too.  I really would like the feedback, good or bad.  I'm just asking for a review.  What you write is up to you.

I had a calculus professor who worked like that back in college.  Granted, at his best he was a self-important *ahem*, but he maintained that he didn't care if we turned in a sheet of paper with a chapter from "Moby Dick" on it for our homework as long as it had the student's name at the top.  He said he had only been tested on it by one student.  Instead of differential equations, he got "Call me Ishmael."  He gave the student credit for doing his homework.  And people dare question the sincerity of our educators.  Granted, I did have occasion to prove that he didn't pay attention to a lot of things he said in class, but that's another story.

I promise you it'll be easier to handle than either calculus or anything Melville ever put to paper.

Now, if we're going to do this, I'll need your email address.  Contact me with a reply here and I can set you up with a PDF.  At the end of October, some call it Halloween, I'll have a drawing from the names of those who've done reviews.  That's right, do your homework and you may win a prize.  It's worth it to me because, like most authors, I'd like to get some reviews posted about my book.  Sorry for stating the obvious.

Right now, I'm thinking two winners with a choice of an autographed copy of Part One or a free copy of Part Two.  Winners get to choose.  Victory has its privileges.

When sales go well, though, I'll work up something more grand for the release of Part Two.  As always, your support is appreciated.  Thanks.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

17141--What Would You Do With One Million Dollars

You probably have what seems like a very clever idea.

You probably wouldn't do something as silly as blow it on making a movie.  Well, not unless you had a really amazing idea, right?

Sharknado was made on a one million dollar budget and has a 3.5/10 rating on IMDB, reviewers citing bad special effects, acting, script and general concept.  No surprises there.
Over on Rotten Tomatoes, LA Times' reviewer says gaping plot problems are the point of movies like this, inspire fabulous in-home commentary and great consumption of alcohol.  With only 7.5/10 from averaging 11 reviews, Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 91% score.
Syfy ran it 3 times in its premiere month, with viewership increasing each time.  A National Weather Service rep joked, "As with any waterspout or tornado, the best advice is to be in an interior part of the lowest floor of a sturdy building and not outside, whether sharks are raining down or not."
It has trended on Twitter thanks to celebrity involvement in discussions, including Wil Wheaton and Olivia Wilde.  Syfy has held a Twitter contest for, yup, a title for the sequel.  Will it be Shark Night Rises?  No, Sharknado 2: The Second One is scheduled to premiere in July 2014.
Wow.  Probably the most amazing million dollars Syfy ever spent.
Who greenlights these things?

Monday, September 9, 2013

17136--Everyone Makes Mistakes

It's just part of the human condition that everyone makes mistakes.  Since they're made by humans, even machines make mistakes and that includes the machines made by machines because the first machines were still made by humans, anyway.

The deeds of most, for good or ill, can pass harmlessly into memory.  Some people leave big footprints, make larger ripples in the pond, with a greater impact on the world to mark their passing.

Albert Einstein was certain he made a mistake once, but it later turned out that he was mistaken about that, which made him seem even more brilliant about knowing things before everyone else.

Now, Nikola Tesla had some great ideas and did some astounding work.  That man did things a hundred years ago that have defined the lifestyle of our world today.  One of his biggest ambitions was to provide free energy to the public.  Implementing that ambition would've put us on track to living the Star Trek dream of universal abundance.  The roadblock Tesla ran into was that furthering his work cost money.  Securing funding meant working with people who insisted on making unlimited profit when providing power to the people.

Was giving in to them a mistake?  His choice may have helped put us under the thumb of mega corporations and given the bankers another tool to use against us, but I wasn't in his shoes.  He may have had more idealism than wisdom to hook up with his genius, but it seemed to have cost him a great deal.

Which cost all of us a great deal.

What else is there to say?

Monday, September 2, 2013

17129--Pursuit of Happiness? Priceless.

Can you make change for me? 
This isn't a philosophical question or an enlightened social challenge.  I'm talking economics, specifically monetary trade.  I've heard that Alban is about to replace all the gold and silver crowns in circulation with a fresh mint issue of gold and silver imperials.  I don't want to get stuck with the old ones because they're about to be outlawed, but I'm concerned his Highness is going to short the new coins on their precious metal content.  It's most likely that the Fourth Tribe is going to handle the actual administration of the exchange for the Crimson Throne and it's always a good idea to keep an eye on that bunch of sneaky bankers.  You didn't hear that from me, though.

Personally, I think the gold and silver royals from Tazhir are a far more ornately crafted collection of coins.  The Sapphire Throne has also been pretty trustworthy regarding the quality of their money.  They're very proud of their coins, but it's no wonder if you see them.  Queen Valinae is quite the beauty and the engravers got the likenesses spot on.  They're not as widely or commonly used as the coins from Alban and Zadiasam, but probably because they haven't circulated as many.  Alban has a much larger population and an unrivaled wealth of precious gems to bolster their economy and trade.  I'm fairly certain that whichever nation can get their coin to take popular hold among the independent city-states of Bentrci will earn considerable influence on the global economy of Tarakk.  It's just a theory, if you care about such things.

The different nations keeping their coins distinct helps with exchanges.  Tazhir uses octagonal discs.  Albani crowns are hexagonal, but the rumors about the imperials that are going to replace them Is that they're round.  Brilliant, huh?  Who wants to have to chase coins when you drop them and they're rolling away?  Nobody, that's who.  His Majesty didn't ask for opinions, though.  They're his coins, after all.  That's right, they're going to have his face on them.  They're making me take an interest in Zadiasam's coins.  No faces, just words and numbers etched into silver or electrum.  They're rectangular.  Those practical little blocks aren't rolling anywhere.  I guess one should expect nothing less from people so in love with their sciences.

Long before pondering these particular monetary and economic concerns, it occurred to me that the United Federation of Planets had really gotten their act together.  Yes, the Star Trek gang.  I know that most of what we see of the Federation is through military eyes (for those of you who hadn't made the connection, Starfleet is military even though they stress exploration), and I've often wondered what their designers must have against pockets, but they certainly don't have money problems.

Now, Kirk has said that they don't have money, though there has been reference made to credits.  Picard has pontificated that the pursuit of material things doesn't consume their minds.  Some have called them communist.  Technically, Earth and probably much of the UFP is socialist.  There is governmental structure (which communism would lack) and the means of production and industry are chiefly under control of that structure.  Why don't the people seem to mind chafing under such a system?  Well, the people of the UFP enjoy a great deal of freedom and abundance.  How is this possible?  The Federation has grown beyond our meager constraints and achieved the capacity to create more energy than the people need for anything they conceive of doing.  Coupled with that is also the technology to employ that energy in the creation of virtually anything an individual needs or wants.  With all that taken care of, the Pursuit of Happiness is all that remains and people seem to be encouraged to find that bliss.  With a sweet setup like that, who gives a damn about the accumulation of wealth besides people who want to master their Scrooge McDuck swimming techniques or collect antique pieces of culture?  There's certainly no need for taxation and no need for money concerns at all unless you want to trade with someone who has something you want that can't be replicated.

There's just no pleasing some people.

Well, thus begins the writing.  What macguffin are you after?  Who has it and what's it going to take to get it?  Good luck on your bestseller.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

17120--Missed Opportunity?

Way back when, the eighties nearly over, Star Trek: The Next Generation had its first season in the rearview, though its pungent stink lingered on (Professor Farnsworth of Futurama has since demonstrated for us that smells can indeed be transmitted through space.  I think it has something to do with dark matter.) like someone had been sprayed by the giant blue tree sloth skunks of Auriga VI.  If you didn't pack marshmallows for them, it's your own fault. 

Anyway, the show's creators had charged on into season 2 with the realization that the only threat the Ferengi presented was as a threat to credibility as a credible threat.  They had given up on twitchy, snaggletoothed scavenger/traders who still lacked solid definition and were looking for a new alien menace.  An idea emerged to make that race insectoid, possessed of a hive mind.  Well, it turned out that insects presented budget problems, so when Q threw the Enterprise-D into the deep end ("Q Who", Season 2, Episode 16) on May 8, 1989, it was to swim with the Borg.  The Borg weren't so much hungry sharks as they were communists to whom "no" meant nothing on a perpetual recruiting drive.

Don't bother to pack.  The cult will provide all your needs.

The point of Q's uber-mischief, tossing the ship and crew to the grinder, had been to show them that there were threats for which they were unprepared.  Before the episode's end, Captain Picard conceded the point.  Q rescued them and returned the ship to where he had found it.  Picard vowed that they would ready themselves for future encounters.

Again, Picard let us down.  What should've been obvious was that they needed people on their side who had more experience with the Borg.  Whoopi Goldberg as the mysterious Guinan wasn't nearly enough.

Who they needed apparently was Michael Jackson.

Michael Jackson had been working as the dazzling Captain EO since September 12, 1986.  That meant he had almost three years of experience dealing with their queen, deassimilating not only her but her cyborg collective.  If you haven't seen it, check his "resume" on YouTube.  Then, come back and tell me those don't look like Borg.  The Enterprise didn't need phasers.  They needed musical superpowers to thwart the Borg cybernetics and reawaken their biological distinctiveness.  And we thought Species 8472 was impressive.

Imagine all the trouble they could have averted, if only they'd scheduled a few musical numbers.  If nothing else, imagine the forces of Star Fleet dancing and singing back-up for Michael Jackson while the Borg cubes transform into a Disney-esque colorscape of clouds and Grecian temples.

Wow, if they could've booked David Bowie to flank them as Jareth the Goblin King, the galaxy could have been Borg-free by lunch.

Somebody get JJ Abrams on the phone!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

17078--Child of Fire and Blood (Ch. 2)

The trouble starts over on the Theobroma page. I've decided to continue it out here with a few chapters for your perusal. Enjoy a taste of Tarakk prior to indulging in the whole novel. Feedback or questions on the world, its people, their gods or whatever are equally welcome.



Deep within the Sun Islands archipelago, a group of ten light combat ships cleaved the cool waters as the first fingers of dawn began to reach over the eastern horizon. With tactical maneuvers coordinated by their command ship, the Albani expeditionary force closed in on Varga, hidden stronghold of the eastern pirate lords. From Varga, the seafaring traffic of more than a score of nations had been prey to the unpredictable methods the outlaws had developed across nearly two centuries of widespread activity.

The pirates of Tarakk had grown from operating in small groups looting small civilian vessels for whatever random valuables they had aboard, to acting as ordered fleets of small, swift attack boats under an organized command structure. The pirate fleets had become capable of harassing, boarding and capturing non-military vessels of any size.

The uncivilized men and women who had dedicated themselves to lives of crime on the open ocean gradually became technologically obsessed to the point of modifying their bodies with cybernetic additions and mechanical prosthetics to achieve greater efficiency in their endeavors. Their observed process was believed to involve holding captive vessels, their passengers and materials for sale, use or ransom. Profits were largely believed to fund continued operations and illicit surgeries.

The Albani military action, converging ships on Varga, was the latest and most significant tactical maneuver against the pirate forces in the last two decades. Years of undermining the fearsome reputations the cyborg pirates had established was seen by most as owing to the driving efforts of one man. It was at his command that missiles carrying payloads of irritant gas were unleashed upon Varga’s interior.

Though the gas-laden missiles appeared to be the first stage of the Albani surprise attack, it was actually the second. Before the sun’s first light, the expeditionary force’s command ship had engaged what the crew had come to call the Voice of Doom, a low frequency sound resonator that induced powerful disorientation and nausea in its targets. As a result, the pirate community’s response to the gas attack was minor.

The pirates of Varga woke to bursting gas bombs and stumbled toward their haven’s sheltered harbor. At the docks, their light attack craft, each capable of carrying twelve to twenty action-ready raiders, were blockaded by military vessels up to five times their size. Even with many of their attack craft captured over the past month, the scores that remained might still use their superior aquatic agility to threaten the military force.

Squads of riflemen and infantry in powered armor leaped over the side of the Albani frigate Hammer of Justice to pour across the decks of the pirate skiffs Hell’s Rage, The Scream of Demons and Goddess of War. Ready for action, the soldiers took up position on the boats and established a firing line on the dock. The pirates who had managed to gather at the docks, a majority of them still queasy and shaking, held fast to their swords and guns as they cybernetically selected combat targets through sonic and thermal imaging devices.

“Soldiers,” a somber officer with a dragon skull helmet cloaked in gray, called out from Hammer of Justice’s deck, “stand ready.”

“You’ve come to talk then?” one of the pirates called out.

“You are among the leadership of this rabble?” the bearded officer responded, spreading his cloak enough to display his ornate dark armor.

“Vopho Varin Sala,” the brown-haired man said, standing tall within his armored coat, his cybernetic eye glowing green. “Rorian Broadax to my left. You must be the Lost Prince.”

Within the beard, beneath the dragon skull helmet, there was a smile. The veteran commander tightened his grip on his long, bladed lance and lifted it skyward. Lightning flashed above him, rolling thunder behind it. As eyes turned to the clouds, the dirigible command ship Destiny appeared, moving slowly groundward. Descending faster than the larger craft, a hover platform approached the standoff bearing a white-haired man in black and gold armor flanked by two soldiers. A black cloak hung from his shoulders, flowing in the breeze as they flew.

“Pirates of Varga,” the white-haired man called out, his voice magically amplified to awe-inspiring resonance, “you stand before the Army of Light, prepared to dominate any resistance on this island. For numerous counts of violating international law, Alban’s Army of Light has come to bring you all to justice. The control codes on your boats have been overridden and their systems temporarily disabled. We have no wish to harm you. You are advised to surrender.”

The hover platform set down behind the Albani firing line almost silently. With absolute confidence, the commanding noble walked forward. His soldiers parted, allowing him to pass as the pirate leader also came forth to meet him.

You’re the one they call the Lost Prince?” the pirate asked.

“Lar Kwa, prince of Alban,” he said, “leader of the Army of Light. You lead these people?”

“Vopho Varin Sala and my brother, Rorian Broadax,” the pirate replied, “last pirate lords of the eastern faction and commanders of Varga.”

“Then you are authorized to present the surrender of your people and transfer control of Varga without challenge?” Lar Kwa asked.

“We are,” Sala confirmed, looking about at his own people and the military standing against them. “The day is early yet, though. We’ve gone to the trouble of warming up our hardware, so we would not be averse to some killing before breakfast.”

“I do offer terms,” the prince said, “if you are of a mind to hear them.”

“What do you have to offer that we should not fight to take?” Broadax asked, his gleaming bionic arms brandishing a heavy combat axe menacingly.

“Redemption. To that end, your people will have safe passage under the royal authority of Alban,” Lar Kwa said, the fist beneath his cloak grasping the pommel of his blade as a faint golden halo enveloped him, “If your honor code demands, as lords of this land, nobility dictates that I may offer you a duel. I will try my best to leave at least one of you unharmed and then we can be on our way.”

Vopho Varin Sala seemed to consider the prince’s offer, perhaps even silently communicating with his brother through their matching artificial eyes. Even without the passing nausea as a factor, something overwhelming in the prince’s winning smile and gleaming eyes drained from them the urge to fight. As they looked back to Lar Kwa, Sala and Broadax seemed almost entranced by his presence. Then, trembling, they each fell to their knees. Taking the prince’s gloved hand, the pirate lords gently bowed their foreheads to the royal presence. Following the example of their leaders, the assemblage of pirates down to every last man, woman and child quietly sank to their knees and bowed their heads.

“And at once, you recognize the divine power you face,” Lar Kwa said, “reaching into your core.”

“Tales of you and your mighty army have spread far, my great lord,” the pirate leader said. “It is you alone, though, to whom we attribute the losses we have suffered for over a decade in many battles. We have often discussed the coming of this storm and choose not to oppose you now.”

“You honor me,” the prince said with a cautious smile. “Perhaps our great gods will yet show you their mercy.”

“If it is your will,” Sala said. “We’ll all do our best in your service to earn that mercy.”

“Perhaps we can duel later,” Lar Kwa laughed, “to entertain our people and the cameras.”

“As your highness wishes,” Sala said humbly.

“As all of these people are yielding to the authority of the Crimson Throne and the power of Alban,” Lar Kwa said, employing his amplified voice again and holding his golden sword overhead to make a sweeping gesture, “I know they will begin happily earning our favor by joining my Army of Light in freeing any captives still held here. Once we have finished here, we will begin our journey home to Alban.”

“Master?” General Karra queried from the deck of the ship, marking the only time anyone gathered could note hearing uncertainty in the stalwart veteran’s voice. “Is it time already?”

“Absolutely, old friend,” Prince Lar Kwa said. “Those who sit above have shown me that Alban has dire need of us, so we must return with all haste. Land the troops. Varga must be made secure and then our homeland must be saved from the horrors that beset the people even now. We have prepared for years to face this and now the Lost Prince will go home. It will be our greatest challenge yet, though only the first of many should we succeed.”

“Yes, my lord,” the general responded, bowing sharply before he withdrew.

Releasing the unseen grip on his weapon, Lar Kwa activated a radio in his collar and called, “Arcane, is Destiny ready to travel?”

“The command ship is fully prepared, lord,” came the atonal reply from his most efficient servant. “Is there anything else to which you need me to attend?”

“Move the remainder of the fleet,” the prince commanded, looking up at the hovering dirigible. “Any that still have available space for transport, send here. Have the rest wait to the southwest of the islands where we can meet them for the journey back to Alban.”

“Affirmative,” Arcane replied. “Movements will begin at once.”

“Excellent,” the prince said. “I already know the perfect room for you to set-up in when we reach the palace. We have a lot of work ahead of us if we are indeed to change the world.”